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9377726 Translating Cultures

9377726 Translating Cultures

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  • Paula Rubel and Abraham Rosman
  • Aram A. Yengoyan
  • Todd Jones
  • Michael Silverstein
  • Michael Herzfeld
  • Deborah Kapchan
  • Webb Keane
  • Brinkley Messick

Translating Cultures

Translating Cultures
Perspectives on Translation and Anthropology

Edited by Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman

Oxford • New York

First published in 2003 by Berg Editorial offices: 1st Floor, Angel Court, 81 St Clements Street, Oxford, OX4 1AW, UK 838 Broadway, Third Floor, New York, NY 10003-4812, USA © Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman 2003 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg.

Berg is an imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Translating cultures : perspectives on translation and anthropology / edited by Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-85973-740-4 – ISBN 1-85973-745-5 (pbk.) 1. Communication in ethnology. 2. Ethnology–Authorship. 3. Translating and interpreting. 4. Intercultural communication. I. Rubel, Paula G. II. Rosman, Abraham. GN307.5.T73 2003 306—dc21 2003000652

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 1 85973 740 4 (Cloth) ISBN 1 85973 745 5 (Paper)

Typeset by JS Typesetting Ltd, Wellingborough, Northants. Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King’s Lynn.

Acknowledgments Notes on Contributors Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Part I: General Problems of Translation 1 Lyotard and Wittgenstein and the Question of Translation Aram A. Yengoyan Translation and Belief Ascription: Fundamental Barriers Todd Jones Translation, Transduction, Transformation: Skating “Glossando” on Thin Semiotic Ice Michael Silverstein vii ix







Part II Specific Applications 4 The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable: Representations of Untranslatability in Ethnographic Discourse Michael Herzfeld Translating Folk Theories of Translation Deborah Kapchan Second Language, National Language, Modern Language, and Post-Colonial Voice: On Indonesian Webb Keane Notes on Transliteration Brinkley Messick –v–








Contents 8 The Ethnographer as Pontifex Benson Saler Text Translation as a Prelude for Soul Translation Alan F. Segal Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Wyatt MacGaffey Are Kinship Terminologies and Kinship Concepts Translatable? Abraham Rosman and Paula G. Rubel







269 285


– vi –

held at Barnard College. Serge Gavronsky. grasping what the interlocutor was getting at. President of the Foundation at that time for her support. We wish to thank Michael Silverstein. We hope that this volume fulfills the expectations of all those who helped to bring it about. and especially to Sydel Silverman. We would like to thank all of the participants for their particularly illuminating and lively discussion during our meeting.Acknowledgments The chapters of this volume were first presented as papers and discussed at a conference. and in addition Suzanne Blier. Jean McCurry and her staff made all the necessary arrangements. We also wish to thank Mansour Kamaletdinov for all his assistance in preparation of the manuscript and for particular attention to detail. Columbia University. All the papers were circulated before the conference took place. which made the conference a memorable event. Arnold Krupat. interpreting them. Michael Herzfeld. Simon Ortiz. the problem confronting another’s ideas. We want to thank President Judith Shapiro and Provost Elizabeth Boylin who were particularly helpful. and Alan Segal for their input in helping us to organize the conference. Barnard College provided the venue for the conference. Some of the points made during those discussions are included in the Introduction to this volume (referenced by name). brought back to each of us the basic issue of translating a different and sometimes strange culture into our language and our culture. Paula Rubel Abraham Rosman New York City – vii – . Kathryn Earle of Berg press has been particularly helpful in organizing the publication of this volume. and Douglas Robinson. 10–12 November 1998. Translation and Anthropology. We are very grateful to the Wenner Gren Foundation which sponsored the conference. As we talked and discussed the papers around a large table. The participants at the conference included those whose papers comprise the chapters of this volume.


Ann Arbor. He is the author of eight books. as well as many articles on missionaries and modernity.Notes on Contributors Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. the more recent being Portrait of a Greek Imagination and Anthropology: Theoretical Practice In Culture and Society. He is the author of numerous articles in both philosophy and social science journals and is currently working on a volume about reductionism and belief in the Social Sciences. Coleman Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus at Haverford College. B. the Institute for Advanced Study. Wyatt MacGaffey is John R. Donne Prize on the Anthropology of Art and has been awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal (Royal Anthropological Institute). – ix – . He has published extensively on social scructures. He was a Ford Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavior Sciences and the National Endowment for the Humanities. etc. He has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Social Science Research Council. She writes about performance. She is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (1996) and is currently completing a manuscript on music. narrative and trance in the context of the Moroccan Gnawa performance. politics. Webb Keane is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. semiotics. He is the winner of the J. Las Vegas. the National Science Foundation. Deborah Kapchan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. religious language. she was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to translate Moroccan poetry in dialect into English. In 2001. poetics. music and aesthetics. He is the author of Signs of Recognition: Powers and Hazards of Representation in an Indonesian Society (1997). history and art of Central Africa and his most recent work is Kongo Political Culture: the Conceptual Challenge of the Particular (2000). Todd Jones is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nevada. He has had fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

He has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship as well as grants from the National Science Foundation. the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities and the Wenner Gren Foundation. Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea. Professor Saler has held grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. and has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. and grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health. Disneyana and Black American. She has jointly done research with Professor Abraham Rosman for many years in Iran. the Annenberg Foundation. He is the author of Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World. She has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Benson Saler is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Brandeis University. His research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council. a regime of an Islamic State. particularly ethnographic objects. Second Edition. including Feasting with Mine Enemy: Rank and Exchange among Northwest Coast Societies. They have published many articles and books. They have done research in Iran. Their book The Tapestry of Culture is currently going into its eighth edition. including Feasting with Mine Enemy: Rank and Exchange among Northwest Coast Societies. Second Edition. Columbia University. Their book The Tapestry of Culture is going into its eighth edition. –x– . Segal is Professor of Religion and the Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College. the Melton Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of Conceptualizing Religion (paperback edition 2000) and co-author of UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth (1997). Abraham Rosman is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea and most recently have been doing research on the collecting of objects. Alan F. Rubel is Professor Emerita of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. He is the author of The Calligraphic State and is completing a new work on shari’a. Currently. most particularly ethnographic artifacts in America. they are doing research on collecting artifacts.Notes on Contributors Brinkley Messick is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Columbia University. He has done anthropological research with Professor Paula Rubel for many years and they have jointly published many articles and books. Columbia University. in the United States. the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. the Ford Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Fulbright Program. Paula G. Paul the Convert and Charting the Hereafter: The Afterlife in Western Culture.

Origin. Yengoyan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California. MacArthur Foundation. Philippines. the National Science Foundation. and was a member of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and received grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. of Linguistics and of Psychology at the University of Chicago. He has recently edited Natural Histories of Discourse with Greg Urban and has contributed to Regimes of Language edited by Paul Kroskrity. Harvard University. and Egalitarianism among the Mandays of Southeast Mindanao. He was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Grey Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Anthropology. Aram A. and Catherine T. Hierarchy. Davis. His recent publications include Religion.Notes on Contributors Michael Silverstein is Charles F. the MaxPlanck-Gesellschaft and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was also awarded a fellowship by the John D. He has received grants from the Society of Fellows. Morality. and No Exit: Aboriginal Australians and the Historicizing of Interpretation and Theory. and Prophetic Traditions: Conversion among the Pitjantjatjara of Central Australia. – xi – .


translation means cross-cultural understanding. whose methodology. and the European public at large. or the translation to a set of analytical concepts. This inevitably involves either the translation of words. Translation is central to “writing about culture”. and individuals who learned these lingua francas and pidgins became the translators and interpreters. used in the first instance. and the interpreters of their very differing ways of life. The European explorers and travelers to Asia and later the New World were always being confronted with the problem of understanding the people whom they were encountering. and who feel that the way to do fieldwork cannot be taught. with the emphasis on science. Still others. and later as a social science. which usually involves analytical concepts. curiously. the role that translation has played in anthropology has not been systematically addressed by practitioners. for European intellectuals. were soon replaced by lingua francas and pidgins. In its broadest sense. They were also the individuals who were the basis for the conceptions which the Others had of Europeans. Since its inception as a discipline and even in the “prehistory” of anthropology. One of the reasons for this has been the ongoing internal dialogue about the nature of the discipline. and to the search for meanings and understandings. With the development of anthropology as a formal academic discipline in the mid-nineteenth century. must be spelled out in detail. which is the goal of anthropology. These pioneers in cross-cultural communication not only brought back the words of the newly encountered people but also became the translators and communicators of all kinds of information about these people. translation has played a singularly important role. sampling and quantification. On the other side are those who emphasize the humanistic face of the field.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Paula Rubel and Abraham Rosman The central aim of the anthropological enterprise has always been to understand and comprehend a culture or cultures other than one’s own. who focus on achieving understanding of another culture. even though translation has been so central to data-gathering procedures. ideas and meanings from one culture to another. Gesture and sign language. However. think it can only be achieved by “total immersion” and empathy. translation of course –1– . There are those who feel that anthropology is a social science.

the founding father of professional anthropology in the United States. a speaker of the –2– . the anthropologists of the time were not concerned with questions of translation but only with the information itself. Boas recognized that the languages of the New World were organized in a totally different manner than European languages and Latin. The fact that grammatically. The students were to collect information about the various aspects of a culture by recording texts in the native language. He sent his Columbia University students to various American Indian tribes. These were the individuals who were in first-hand contact with the “primitive peoples”. who were very different from themselves. Rubel and Abraham Rosman continued to play a significant role. emphasized the importance of linguistics and the central role that language played in culture. while they theorized about the development of human society and the evolution of culture. using phonetic transcription. But their theories depended upon ethnographic information collected by missionaries. Translation was the modus vivendi. travelers. In the training of his students he emphasized the necessity of learning the native language. was also not considered. anthropologists such as Edward Tylor. Even when anthropologists themselves began to do fieldwork and gather ethnographic data at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. which languages were used. who was doing the translations and what were the methods used. This was to record valuable linguistic information about these languages. before knowledge of them was lost. field methodology and the role translation would play in the data-gathering enterprise were not really addressed. with the Kwakiutl version of the text transcribed in phonetics on the bottom half of the page and the English translation on the top half. which were established during this period. Though Boas. There was a brief note about transcription at the beginning of the work entitled Explanation of Alphabet Used in Rendering Indian Sounds (Boas 1921: 47). and who these interpreters were. The degree of expertise of these Europeans in the local languages or whether they used interpreters. Lewis Henry Morgan and Johann Bachofen remained in their offices and libraries at home. whose languages were in danger of disappearing because of the shift to the use of English. nor was there concern with. however. he did not deal with the question of translation. Though he did not deal with translation in general. At this point in time. whether it was based on actual observations or casual conversations. He himself published the results of his research with the Kwakiutl in the form of texts as. Their descriptions of the ways of life of the people they were encountering were being published in the various professional journals and monographs. the sources of this data were not questioned. in the two-volume Ethnology of the Kwakiutl. Such differences in grammatical categories are central to problems of translation. for example. or any evaluation of this information in terms of how it was collected. and the ways in which it could be used to buttress the evolutionary schemas and theories which they were hypothesizing. traders and colonial government officials.Paula G. At this point in time.

whether he saw the action himself. requires some systematic understanding of it [the local language] and an accurate transcription. on the one hand. or heard about it from someone else. word for word of each statement” (Malinowski 1961 [1922]: 23–4). while the speaker of English does not. . but they did not formally consider translation’s impact on their work or their theorizing.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Kwakiutl language indicates how he knows about an action a particular individual is performing. . learning the lingua franca of the wider area. He recognized the importance of acquiring a knowledge of the native language to use it as an instrument of inquiry. be it a pidgin or Creole. . interpreters or the languages in use by the hegemonic colonial governments. Evans-Pritchard. They did long periods of intensive fieldwork during which translation was constantly involved. the authors of Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct. “. though. was never a subject of discussion and seems to have been of minimal importance. surely plays a role in the translation of Kwakiutl to English or English to Kwakiutl. The same point can be made with respect to structuralism. Leach. – always considered it important to learn the language or languages being used in the areas in which they worked. . In addition. . . During the postwar period in America and Britain – despite the turn in interest toward symbolic and later interpretive anthropology with its primary focus on cultural understandings – translation. as he noted. Fortes.” (1961 [1922]: 3). the results of direct observation and of native statements and interpretations. lingua francas. a text devoted to an explication of research methods written for British social anthropologists. . . and on the other hand the insights of the author . Acquiring the local language was essential since it was to be used as the “instrument of inquiry”. such a central part of the search for meaning. anthropologists trained during the period of the ascendancy of British social anthropology and the functionalist paradigm – such as Radcliffe-Brown. Shapera. Malinowski. He talked about the way in which he himself shifted from taking notes in translation which. in any case would have to be learned) one must make one’s own phonemic one. More recently. By and large. using a recognized system like the International Phonetic Alphabet” (Tonkin in Ellen 1984: 181). They recognized that it was important to use the languages spoken locally and not pidgins. Malinowski noted the necessity of drawing a line between. note that fieldwork “. Cultural meanings and –3– . . “. In the absence of a local writing system (which. at last I found myself writing exclusively in that language [Kiriwinian]. was the first anthropologist to systematically address the topic of the procedures which one should use to conduct fieldwork. robbed the text of all its significant characteristics – rubbed off all its points . rapidly taking note. is also deemed essential. in his Introduction to Argonauts of the Western Pacific. . in order to understand the nature of the local culture and its meanings. et al. He noted that “pidgin English” was a very imperfect instrument for gaining information.

words associated with rituals or conversations and observations may initially be written in the native language to be translated into their own language – English. this is an excellent time to consider a series of issues arising from the fact that for anthropology. what people recount to him or her. Anthropologists. Data that the fieldworker records. etc. the analysis of the data and the writing of the ethnographic text. Rubel and Abraham Rosman understandings were significant for the structuralist enterprise. We might call this translation in the first instance. since the data being analyzed were the products of translation. which we –4– . Is translation from one culture to another possible and if so under what conditions? Can an anthropological researcher control another language adequately enough to carry out a translation? How should a researcher deal with the presence of class dialects. cultural anthropology is still going through a period of assessment and the rethinking of its goals. Since cultural understanding is based on the premise that translation is possible. James Clifford and other postmodernists have forced us to reconsider the anthropological enterprise. from fieldwork and data gathering to the production of the ethnographic text. He supports the idea embodied in the crucial term traduttore tradittore. procedures and raison d’être. appreciating and describing another culture (Clifford 1997). one which contains more of the original or source language or one which focuses on the target language and the reader’s understanding? What is the relationship between translation and the conceptual framework of anthropology? At the outset we should explore where translation fits in terms of what anthropologists do during fieldwork. multilingualism and special-outsider language use? What constitutes an acceptable translation. usually try to ascertain which language or languages are spoken in the area of their interest and to begin to learn these before they leave their home base or immediately upon arriving at the field site. which was also important in the postwar era. Clifford in a recent work finally confronts the issue of translation. German. but often this is not the procedure used. and it is their translations upon which the anthropologist relies. How does one approximate as closely as possible the original words and ideas of the culture being studied in the translation? Glossing and contextualizing is one of the methods used. translation is and must be a central concern. – soon after or in a procedure which combines both. yet translation issues were never directly confronted by structuralists. but this has not been the case. that is “The translator is a traitor”. Postmodernism has been the subject of continuing debate and controversy among American cultural anthropologists. translation and all its aspects should be a primary focus in this discussion.Paula G. In the United States. going to do fieldwork in a culture foreign to their own. Thus. He notes further that one should have an appreciation of the reality of what is missed and what is distorted in the very act of understanding. Field assistants or interpreters may need to be used at first. The phonetic recording of the material in the native language is essential. which Malinowski used. as his field notes reveal.

The question of the fit between the cultural understandings of one group and the level of analytical constructs is a very important issue. never consist of the data exactly as collected in the field. the translation is in terms of the analytical concepts developed in anthropology. may offer some assistance to anthropologists confronting similar problems in their own work. This last step is one which some younger American anthropologists today do not wish to take. George Hunt. What kind of connection should there be between the original text and the translation? Is the role of the translator. which permit the possibility of considering cross-cultural similarities if such are relevant. This emphasizes the humanistic. At this level of generalization. some see these analytical concepts as emanating from the hegemonic West to be imposed upon the Third World Others compromising the specificity of their cultural concepts. some of the individuality and specificity of cultural phenomena which translation has revealed “falls by the wayside”. Taking the postmodern message of subjectivity to heart. Though translation in anthropology clearly involves a more complex procedure than literary translation. The development of analytical concepts in anthropology was based upon the premise of cross-cultural similarities at a higher analytical level than the generalizations formed about a single culture. These varied in terms of the degree to which translations were oriented toward the target language or to the source language. –5– . and the understandings of the other society which they themselves gained. which describe what happened to them in the field. Only Boas frequently did publish texts in the same form as they were received from his primary field assistant. as it is imprinted on the translation. after doing their translations from the source language. which has recently emerged in the United States as a distinct discipline dealing not only with the historical and cultural context of translation. there were different translation paradigms. At this level. More importantly. some postmodernist anthropologists publish their ethnographic material in very self-reflexive accounts. The work of translation specialists has revealed that at different historic periods in the Western world. parallel to the role of the anthropologist as the interpreter of a culture not his own (though some anthropologists today study their own cultures). Other anthropologists. but also with the problems associated with translating texts. Translation Studies. They usually do not deal with the question of translation. chose to examine their data in terms of reoccurring patterns of behavior and ideas and present their understandings of the culture in a series of generalizations. hermeneutic focus on how the self constructs understandings of the Other. Clifford has made us very aware of the constructed nature of the ethnographic text and the various messages such texts convey. which anthropologists publish today. The ethnographic texts. precisely because they feel that analytical concepts do not cognitively resonate sufficiently with the meanings of the particular culture they have studied.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology will discuss later in greater detail.

The translation of foreign texts may also reflect the ideological and political agendas of the target culture. The instrumental concept of language. hegemony and cultural dominance are often said to be reflected in translations. . The foreignized translation is one that engages “. These features are also said to be present in translations. It is clear that the translations done by anthropologists cannot help but have ideological implications. which are being done now in the postcolonial period. As Basnett notes. expressive of thought and meanings where meanings refer to an empirical reality or encompass a pragmatic situation. The values of the local culture are a central aspect of most of the cultural phenomena which anthropologists try to describe. at first. whatever their intention reflect a certain ideology and a poetics and as such manipulate literature to function in a society in a given way. –6– . Rubel and Abraham Rosman Translation theory rests on two different assumptions about language use. especially those which were done during the colonial period. Rewriting is manipulation. there is the view that translation.Paula G. “All rewritings. consisting of thought and meanings. As Cronin notes. In contrast. The values of the culture of the source language may be different from those of the target language and this difference must be dealt with in any kind of translation. Hierarchy. and these may differ from and be in conflict with the values of the target culture. Cultural differences are emphasized and translation is seen as coming to terms with “Otherness” by “resistive” or “foreignizing” translations which emphasize the difference and the foreignness of the text. seen as the uprooting and transplanting of the fragile meanings of the source language. How does one preserve the cultural values of the source language in the translation into the target language. readers in domestic terms that have been defamiliarized to some extent” (Venuti 1998: 5) These models clearly reveal the ideological implications of translation. This approach emphasizes the commonality and universality of human experience and the similarities in what appear. which sees it as a mode of communication of objective information. undertaken in the service of power and in its positive aspect can help in the evolution of a literature and a society” (Basnett in Venuti 1995: vii). Translating is seen as a “traitorous act”. that in turn destabilize universalist theoretical prescriptions on the translation process” (Cronin 1996: 4). where the latter shape reality and the interpretation of creative values is privileged (Venuti 2000: 5). Competing models of translation have also developed. being the basis for the intercultural communication which has always characterized human existence. . “Translation relationships between minority and majority languages are rarely divorced from issues of power and identity. The hermeneutic concept of language emphasizes interpretation. There are those who see translation as a natural act. is unnatural. which is usually the aim of the translation. How to make that difference comprehensible to audiences is the major question at issue. to be disparate languages and cultures. one of the features which translation-studies specialists have strongly emphasized.

However. –7– . thought that a translation could move in either of two directions: either the author is brought to the language of the reader or the reader is carried to the language of the author. restrain the ethnocentric violence of translation and is an intervention . levels and categories of language and textuality. which produces in it the echo of the original” (Benjamin 1923 in Venuti 2000). to what extent any language may be transformed” (Benjamin in Venuti 2000: 22). who wrote “On the Different Methods of Translating” in 1813. in his famous essay entitled “The Task of the Translator”. In the latter case. a translation constituted the continued life of the original. capable of reduction to precisely defined units. notions of cultural and linguistic relativity began to come to the fore. at the expense of the subaltern nations and peoples around the world. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible. led to the postmodernist position. according to Venuti (1998: 12) In the 1970s in the United States. discussed above. Moving in the direction of the reader is referred to as the domestication of translation. This method seeks to “. To him. Benjamin is seen by translation specialists as espousing what is referred to as “foreignizing translation”. is that in this way translation has served the global purposes of the Western modernized industrial nations. Benjamin sees the basic error of the translator as preserving the state “. This approach would seem to be compatible with the goals of anthropology. . there is actual translation (Venuti 2000: 60). notes that “The task of the translator consists of finding that intended effect [intention] into which he is translating. . foreign texts are seen as entities with invariants. . instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. Foreignizing translation is a way of rectifying the power imbalance by allowing the voice of these latter nations to be heard in their own terms. This direction. . when the reader is forced from his linguistic habits and obligations to move within those of the author. that all cultures are unique and different and that cultural translation is a difficult if not impossible task but that cultural translation into a Western language should be attempted since cross-cultural understanding is an important goal. . Given this perspective.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology What constitutes “fidelity” to the original text? Walter Benjamin. there are also some who support the position that at some level of generalization there are universals of language and culture. . Foreignizing a text means that one must disrupt the cultural codes of the target language in the course of the translation. Minoritizing translation which relies on discursive heterogeneity contrasts with fluency which is assimilationist. in anthropology. and others. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. in which his own language happens to be. The position of Venuti. pitted against hegemonic English language nations and the unequal cultural exchanges in which they engage their global others” (Venuti 1995: 20). The nineteenth-century German theorist Schleiermacher.

. How close can any translation come to the original text or statement? Nida notes that “Since no two languages are identical either in meanings given to corresponding symbols.Paula G. In Russian. He cites an excellent example of the kind of supplementary information. . . . For this reason. takes his perspective from Pierce. and make as close an approximation as possible. whose research has had significance for both linguists and anthropologists. Clearly. noting that the translation should be characterized by “naturalness of expression” in the translation and that it should relate to the culture of the “receptor”. and points out that “. the word is masculine and therefore represented as a man (Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000: 117). the semiotician. the interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language. it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages . or in ways in which such symbols are arranged in phrases and sentences. no fully exact translation . the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements of the source language. It should have the feel of the original. in his discussion of inanimate nouns which are personified by gender. and means of expression. The cultural context of the translation must always be presented. that the grammatical pattern of a language determines those aspects of experience which must be expressed and that translations often require supplementary information since languages are different in what they must convey. One should identify with the person in the source language. the word death is feminine. the impact may be reasonably close to the original but no identity in detail” (Nida 1964 in Venuti 2000: 126). . represented as a woman. One must reproduce as literally and meaningfully the form and content of the original. especially one which is more fully developed ”(Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000). This would seem to be a prescription which most anthropologists should follow in their own fieldwork. understand his or her customs. He recognized. and in what they may convey (Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000: 114). Phillips’ method of back translation in which equivalencies are constantly checked is one way to achieve as exact a correspondence as possible. distinctions of this sort are significant when one does any type of translation. But Nida also attends to the needs of the reader. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Jakobson. A good translation should fulfil the same purpose in the new language as the original did in the source language. manner of thought. Therefore. . which must be provided. the process of translation must involve a certain degree of interpretation on the part of the translator. while in German. Jakobson distinguishes between intra-lingual translation – the rewording or interpretation of verbal signs by other signs of the same language. he is seen as being in the camp of those who advocate the “domestication” of –8– . inter-lingual translation – translation proper. and inter-semiotic translation – the interpretation of verbal signs by signs of a non-verbal sign system. as did Boas before him. the meaning of a linguistic sign is its translation into some further alternative sign. constant comparison of the two is necessary to determine accuracy and correspondence. As Nida describes it.

Venuti also talks about “the illusion of transparency”. and should have the same effect upon the receiving audience as the original had on its audience (Nida in Venuti 2000: 134). violent rewriting of the foreign text” (Venuti 1995: 24). Fluency is the dominant idea for the English. and emotive elements of meaning of the original (Nida in Venuti 2000: 139–40). In anthropology. This is what has been referred to above as glossing. the goal is to present the different aspects of the culture or society being examined in a “translation” which is as true to the original as possible. hence even in cases of very disparate languages and cultures there is a basis for communication” (Nida in Venuti 2000: 24). The importance of immediate intelligibility is associated with the purely instrumental use of language and the emphasis on facts (Venuti 1995: 1–5).Introduction: Translation and Anthropology translation. the translation must make sense and convey the spirit and manner of the original. whimsy. is some sort of dynamic equivalence that balances both concerns. . Though the equivalence should be source-oriented. The Science of Translation. at the same time it must conform to and be comprehensible in the receptor language and culture. one must keep in mind that Nida’s work. He also talks about problems of translating the emotional content of the original. being sensitive to the style of the original. including using footnotes to illuminate cultural differences when close approximations cannot be found. irony. as he sees it. and the need to convey the sarcasm. In Nida’s eyes. Venuti sees people like Nida as emphasizing semantic unity while those who emphasize foreignization stress discontinuities and the diversity of cultural and linguistic formations. . regarding the methods the translator should use to get the closest approximation of the source language. This means that there is a preference for the use of current English usage in translation. No concessions should be made to make the description more acceptable and palatable to the target audience except for intelligibility. translation being seen as the “. Nida goes into details in his volume. The differences of the foreign text are to be stressed. Nida’s theories are based on a transcendental concept of humanity as an essence unchanged by time and space. since “that which unites mankind is greater than that which divides. The solution. rather than colloquial and archaic language though the translator may see the latter as more suitable in conveying the meanings and genre of the original. Since domesticating the text is said to exclude and conceal the cultural and social –9– . However. A foreignized translation is one which reflects and emphasizes the cultural differences between source and target languages. meaning that the translation must be characterized by easy readability. in general. is informed by missionary values since he developed his science of translation with the express purpose of being used by missionaries in their task of translating biblical and religious texts for use by people speaking languages in remote parts of the world. making the translator and the conditions under which the translation was made invisible. Different societies have different traditions regarding translation.

An important point raised. the inherent indeterminacy of language. . incompatibilities will always be present which must be dealt with by additional discussion and contextualization. which relates more directly to translations by anthropologists. The view that language itself is indeterminate and the signifying process unstable would seem to preclude the possibility of any kind of adequate translation. However. . are now seen as complicating factors in translation (Venuti 2000: 219). seeks to match [the] polyvalences or plurivocatives or [the] – 10 – . Interestingly. Irreducible differences in language and culture. which emphasizes cultural relativity. This is especially necessary when the source language and its culture have no exact linguistic and cultural equivalent in the target language. revived “. what we called glossing above. It is therefore usually necessary to supply supplementary information. eventually becoming like a bilingual (Quine 1959 in Venuti 2000: 108). Translation is doomed to inadequacy because of irreducible differences not only between languages and cultures. Other translation specialists talk about the need to seek functional equivalence even if one must make explicit in the target language what is implicit in the source language (Levy in Venuti 2000: 167).Paula G. . . Quine suggests that one “. many subscribe to the counter-argument. Venuti sees the foreign text itself as the site of “many different semantic possibilities” which any one translation only fixes in a provisional sense. The turn toward thinking. . However. as well as the unavoidable instability of the signifying process. . holding that translation is possible if it “. dominated and limited the translator’s options (Venuti 1995: 810). plural and contingent relation. steep oneself in the language disdainful of English parallels to speak it like a native. is that the foreign text depends upon its own culture for intelligibility. This is what is referred to as glossing. not an unchanging unified essence” (Venuti 1995: 18). developed during the early modern period. are seen as problems which must be overcome if one is to do a translation. One must realize in the target language the textual relations of the source language with no breach of the target language’s basic linguistic system. Rubel and Abraham Rosman conditions of the original text to provide the illusion of transparency and immediate intelligibility. the theme of untranslatability in translation theory” (Venuti 2000: 218). but within them as well. this is referred to as “the ethnocentric violence of translation”. Meaning itself is seen as a “. anthropologists need to deal with these different aspects of translation and to concern themselves with which kind of balance should be achieved in the work that they do. it frequently differs from the first translation because of the changes in the historical and cultural context. . When a text is retranslated at a latter period in time. annotations and the like to anthropological translations. Clearly. The polysemy of languages and the heterogeneous and diverse nature of linguistic and cultural materials which “ destabilize signification” and make meaning plural and divided. The “canonization of fluency in English language translations”. .

in the final analysis. and continues in the analysis of data and in decisions as to the nature of the ethnographic text which will be produced. by reminding the reader of the gains and losses in the translation process and the unbridgeable gaps between cultures” (Venuti 1995: 305). On the other hand. . it is a matter of the balance or trade-off between the need to be comprehensible to the particular readership of the text and the need to convey as much of the original as is possible. negotiate the linguistic and cultural differences between the source language and culture and that of the target audience for the translation.. syntactic and discursive levels. To Venuti. Venuti’s remarks parallel the position of most anthropologists. professional or nonprofessional. translation has become a battleground between the hegemonic forces – the target culture and language. in the recording of information. Translation – 11 – . Synonymy is not necessarily possible. [resisting the] constraints of the translating language and interrogates the structure of the foreign text” (Lewis in Venuti 2000: 218). The concerns of anthropologists regarding translation are similar to many of the concerns of translation specialists. writing a popular version of one’s ethnographic text is itself a translation from the ethnographic text. “Translation is a process that involves looking for similarities between language and culture – particularly similar messages and formal techniques – but it does this because it is constantly confronting dissimilarities. In some ways. but a form of translation can still take place. The question at issue is how to achieve this balance.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology expressive stress of the original . which is oriented toward the professional anthropologist. A translation strategy based on an aesthetic of discontinuity can best preserve that difference. A translated text should be the site at which a different culture emerges. However. The transformations. As Venuti notes. In the final analysis. whose ideas we have detailed above. This begins in the field. In this respect. Translation is a re-codification. As Frawley notes. which a translation embodies. Translations should. and the formerly subjugated non-Western world. It can never and should never aim to remove these dissimilarities entirely. anthropology tries to preserve as much as possible of the source culture and language (the object of investigation) in the “translation” or ethnography. that otherness. there are many features of translation in anthropology which are unique. where a reader gets a glimpse of a cultural other and resistency. The inadequacies of the translation must be dealt with in an accompanying commentary. . Where does translation in anthropology stand in this ongoing dialogue in Translation Studies? Certainly. should take place on the semantic. the text must be comprehensible to the readership of that text. “Translation when it occurs has to move whatever meanings it captures from the original into a framework that tends to impose a different set of discursive relations and a different construction of reality” (Frawley in Venuti 2000: 268). The nature of translation must be shifted to emphasize the resistance of the latter to the domination of the former. a transfer of codes.

loyalty of meaning and equal familiarity and colloquialness in each language which [to them] contrasts with asymmetrical or unicentered translation. In addition to the ethnography as the translation of a culture in order to understand it. The translation of kinship terminology as it relates to the finite number of variations in the sphere of kinship is explored by Rosman and Rubel in Chapter 11. the subsequent analysis of the field material to gain understanding of the meanings and behaviors of a people other than one’s own. In – 12 – . and the writing of the ethnographic text parallel only in part the translation of literary texts. usually the source language dominates (Werner and Campbell 1970: 398–9). asserts that human beings speaking different languages do not live in the same ‘real’ world with different labels attached: they live in different worlds – language itself acts as a filter on reality. . The fact that translations are possible would seem to negate the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis and support the theory of Chomskian universals. which are universal. Rubel and Abraham Rosman within the context of fieldwork. in which loyalty to one language. This principle. . The development of analytical concepts presumes that there is a limited number of natural possibilities when it comes to cultural categories like kinship. Symmetrical or decentered translation would seem to be similar to Nida’s idea of dynamic equivalence. etc. The ethnographer. . Werner and Campbell talk about symmetrical or decentered translation which aims at both “. is in clear opposition to Chomsky’s ideas of the universality of mental structures pertaining to language. One might call these “natural normativities”. The translation of the “meanings” of a culture into analytical concepts for the purpose of cross-cultural comparison has no equivalent in literary translation. which combines linguistic determinism with linguistic relativity. there is another kind of translation which ethnographers perform as we have noted above. Linguistic theories regarding the nature and characteristics of language. will “translate” what has been found on the local level into a series of analytical concepts which will then enable comparison with other societies. and those of which there are only a finite number of possible permutations (Silverstein in Chapter 3). who sees societies as having similarities as well as differences. Unfortunately. however. Translation relates the local and particular to the universal or semi-universal by relating the local or the source culture to a set of analytical concepts. . What has been referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis “. moulding our perceptions of the universe around us” (Werner and Campbell 1970: 398). The development of analytical categories has been based upon this important premise of a finite number of possibilities. that is the features of human existence. are very relevant to the issue of translation. social organization. most linguists have not been concerned with the relationship and implications of their theoretical ideas to the translation of culture. which we have noted above. discussed above. still an important concern for many anthropologists today.Paula G. meaning its translation into some Western language.

But we must pay attention to how we translate the thinking and intent of the speaker of those words. always involves intentionality. the intention may not be immediately comprehensible. When we translate words and their meanings.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology contrast. we are ascribing intention to a speaker. and must be translated. as we noted above. focus on the source language characterizes many literary translations. The translation of affect and psychological states. nor what the speaker is thinking when he or she speaks. sees all languages as formally similar in their deep structures. Sometimes the translation of the words themselves may not immediately reveal intention. affect may be visible and reveal intention. Cultural intimacy – 13 – . yet they attribute intentionality to individuals. in general. the thinking of the individual. clearly relate to translation and to the understanding of the intent of the words which are being translated. What people say or write. a set of equivalent or near-equivalent sentences of the source language is seen as corresponding to a similar set of sentences in the target language. Greeks don’t know what is in another’s head. Even intra-culturally. Affect and intentionality are culturally specific. but can be said to violate boundaries and the intimacy of the cultural setting within which he or she is working. which are based on cultural conventions. Underlying this conceptualization of symmetrical equivalence is Chomsky’s transformational theory which. Finding coordinates does not mean exact translation. factors such as affect may reveal intentions which may be different from the words themselves. Intention may be intuited from external factors. the performance aspect is also relevant to the translation. making the source and target languages coordinate (Werner and Campbell 1970: 402). Affect and emotions. it is essential for the translator to pay attention to the setting of the translation. which may sometimes not be included or indicated in the translation. In the translation of oral material associated with ritual. but rather searching for the best approximation. since it is part of the message being conveyed. Behind this is the assumption that there is more similarity and less difference (in contrast to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which assumes the opposite). which may subsequently be translated. is another issue which must be considered. In decentered translation. as Herzfeld notes in Chapter 4. In oral presentation. which is impossible. Some raise the question of whether translation can deal with psychological states and issues of affect. The translator not only crosses. The translation should capture what the words were intended to mean. The lexical fields provide the contexts within which one searches for equivalencies. Hence. The way in which these operate and are conceptualized in particular societies. This data is important for the translation itself. The translator must try to do this inter-culturally as well as intraculturally. When the fieldworker records information from informants. Yet should this not be part of the translation? In the context of anthropological fieldwork. when people say or write something. constitute the setting or context of the material.

When there are a diversity of “translations” the question arises regarding which of several translations should be “the” translation. which is divined in other ways. Translation can also be said to constitute a bridge to the target audience. may contrast with or even violate the folk theories of the source language and culture. According to Herzfeld. on the other hand. in Chapter 7. Political factors may be involved in the decision about which translation is “the translation”. and that one can analyze words though they lack certainty. Ideas about meaning are different from one culture to another and one must understand them in their own terms.Paula G. one subjects the words and the expressions of language A in a text to grammatical analysis and one then finds in language B a grammatical analysis which conforms to the grammar in language A. stealing words is the sign of the true Cretan man. These clearly relate to local or folk theories about meanings or what some refer to as folk psychology. but not in others. and this difference must be considered. How does translation relate to “stealing words”? Stealing words has significant meanings in some cultural settings. It is here that dialects may operate in contrast to the “official” or national language. The words that are used are not representative of intention. How do local processes of translation deal with foreign “things” and “domesticate” or translate them? What does it mean to translate locally (Keane in Chapter 6)? How do local people incorporate ideas and material objects which come from the outside? This is also a kind of translation. recognizes that there are always local or folk theories and ideas about translation. There is another point of view which says that words do tell intentions. categories of language which are inter-translatable. it can be said to create boundaries. gives an example of Islamic jurists and their theories of translation. as opposed to what is external. Though translation crosses boundaries. Does translation constitute “stealing words”? What does the actual process of translation involve? According to views expressed at the conference by Silverstein. Rubel and Abraham Rosman is what is goes on “inside” a cultural group. It is intention not words that count to them. We may raise the question of whether the notions of translation of the translator. this is a significant process which needs to be investigated. This distinction must be considered in any translation. This involves – 14 – . that is. Translation can also be seen as a betrayal since it can be said to violate the cultural intimacy of the “inside” (Herzfeld in Chapter 4). as we have noted above. This linguistics project is based on a universal grammar and specific grammatical structures. In this time of “globalization”. Translations are negotiations between that local experience and the target language – the kind of dynamic equivalence referred to above. Differing translations at different points in time reflect different style and ideas about translation. in particular. It depends on the meanings of information and knowledge and the local notion of possession (Keane in Chapter 6). anthropologist or not. Need one translation be promoted over others or is a diversity of translations desirable? The anthropologist. Messick.

A text has a context. (Does the development of pidgins relate to this?) Clearly this relates to the discussion above regarding use of analytical concepts at successively higher levels of abstraction. However. used not only for belief systems. in Chapter 8 of this volume. affect.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology structural equivalence. which are systems or categories of differentiation. translation bridges boundaries and enables understanding across boundaries. transduction. by and large. considers the way in which the Spanish tried to translate ideas about the Trinity and the difficulties encountered. Translating the idea of the virgin birth is the same sort of problem. including their counterintuitive aspects and inconsistencies. Jones. a shared or implicitly shared set of cultural beliefs. as we noted above. “What does the native term do” (Jones)? This approach has been a standard anthropological technique. Therefore when we translate. The individual mind operates in a cultural context. Alternatively. but translation is the communication of cultural knowledge. and are sociocentric – that is. one should use the native term and show how it works in their conceptual economy. be translated? Saler. What does a belief do. – 15 – . Translation is a matter of comparing systems of contextualization of one language and culture with systems of contextualization of another. Silverstein makes the point that the problem of translation is cultural not individual. and translation which is transduction. how does it function in cognitive and social settings? According to Jones. The translator or interpreter himself or herself may be said to constitute a boundary or border (Robinson). with all that they encompass. Genre relates to intentionality. is translation where sense-for-sense or category equivalents are sought (Silverstein). involving social relationships. The latter. There are areas of grammar where this can be done (Silverstein). one could translate the native term into an abstract syntactic primitive relating to the kind of universal syntactic cognitive structure we have discussed above. Can belief systems. Comparative grammar anchors the translation. One must also distinguish between translation which is word for word. in Chapter 2. How to translate genre forms and preserve the various aspects of genre which are so significant to form is an important question. transforming as well as crossing boundaries (Silverstein). Translation breaks down genre. it is not simply propositional knowledge ascribed to the individual mind which is involved. and motivation which we have discussed above. As we noted above. and deal with its “doxastic” surround (Jones). sees belief as a relational entity. The presence of a range of differences is what makes translation a matter of judgment or guess. understanding is a requisite for good translation. This universal cognitive structure would require a kind of natural meta-language. part of a social organization and structure of authority (Silverstein). Every act of translation is a social act. “stereotypic knowledge”. Translation also separates what is self and what is other. in which comparative grammar or structural equivalents anchor the translation.

The translator is in a sense a trickster: he or she can clarify or obfuscate. For example. some product. as noted earlier in this introduction (Ortiz).Paula G. It seems unlikely that a translation can be perfect. the “translation” of the culture will be progressively more accurate. or anthropologists will not be taken seriously or listened to (Jones at the conference). To what extent can the public accept the provisionality of the anthropologist’s account? Some say they can (Herzfeld at the conference). Anthropologists are listeners who are “translating” the local culture. status and identity of the translator is also an issue. the anthropologist’s text is conditional in nature. To which side does her or she hold allegiance? He or she may be a person of greater or lesser authority (Kapchan). with all its “imperfections”. Others see this provisionality as undercutting anthropology as a discipline (Jones at the conference). What he or she produces is an ethnographic text. Some say that the closure of knowledge is bad (Kapchan). which may not have equivalents in the target language. creating a picture of it for the outside world. the best account or “translation of the culture” for this time (Yengoyan at the conference). which must involve glossing and contextualizing local concepts. There is a difference regarding this point if we are talking about the anthropological public or the general public. those local people who were able to learn the language of the colonial power themselves came to be in powerful positions as a consequence of their being middlemen. As is the case for all texts. This is necessary in order to refute the Native American critique that we are not translating “their categories” but imposing our own categories. which Kapchan in Chapter 5 describes as “conditional in its authority”. but they are also seen as outsiders or marginals. that is. A perfect translation is a utopian dream – 16 – . The translator is a mediator between the local society and the outside world. As the anthropologist gains in knowledge and understanding. Rubel and Abraham Rosman In the situations in which the anthropologist usually works. paralleling the storyteller’s performance of a classical Arabic text. However. There are different norms in regard to the position of the translator in different societies. The public needs to be educated about the provisional nature of anthropological categories. a powerful critique. and there must be some closure. mediators or bridges in the colonial situation. upon them and other native peoples. The position of the translator in a particular culture needs to be ascertained historically. we all recognize that newer thinking and developments in the field may require us to revisit that reading and improve it in the light of new developments at some future date. a descriptive ethnography. that it catches all the meanings and nuances of the original. We may say that this is the best we can do at this time. In colonial situations. the role. and the way in which anthropologists “translate” native categories. with their distortions. newer translations or Church texts such as the Bible have been done over time and this belies the idea that there is a fixity of religious beliefs (Blier). However. the anthropologist must present “some reading of the culture”.

Translated native literature often becomes a commodity. Examining ethnographies will reveal that though anthropologists frequently present exact quotes which are translations. – 17 – . some anthropologists would do their research in Pidgin or a local lingua franca. Even intra-lingual communication itself is not perfect. In earlier times. diglossia is operative. or knowledge of the local language on the part of the anthropologist can often be ascertained from the ethnography. The poorer classes speak Haitian Creole. the minor language. Such asymmetrical stratification of languages is universal. Boas himself was concerned with the transcription of oral texts and the use of phonetics to accomplish that task. one has the same problem in representing Black English. It is of significance not only when one works with a local group with only an oral tradition. in particular. one should acquire facility in the languages being used and the nature of the code switching being done and the significance of the language shifting present. Anthropologists doing fieldwork in diglossic situations have to make decisions regarding which language they will use in their fieldwork. The speaker’s intention may be not to be understood. The anthropologist must also be concerned with the way in which quotations appear in the ethnographic text itself. into the major language and the signifier of Haitian nationalism and independence. while learning the standard language was seen as liberating.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology (Jones). But with growing nationalism. learning the native language only to a minimal degree. The power dimension and power differentials were clearly operative throughout this process. Translation in such a situation becomes a problem of translating the multilingual “mix” people are using and the significance of language shifting as it occurs. In field situations such as these. the writing down of native oral literature was an important task. use of the localized language alone was often seen as hindering an upwardly mobile individual. they must use the method of glossing and contextualizing words in order to fully understand what those quotes mean (Messick). often related to class and upward mobility. As noted earlier. while the upper classes speak French. We know this empirically. there has been a movement to make Creole. Transcription creates an artifact from an oral event. Multilingualism was a significant feature of Papua New Guinea society. The degree of facility in. Should they. and this can only be done by phonological transcription (Silverstein). be set up in block form separate from the ongoing text or is some other method more clearly a “translation” of the quote? When anthropologists began to deal with written texts. In many societies. Working with African-Americans. Pidgin English or Police Motu were lingua francas used by people speaking many different frequently nonintelligible local languages. the transcription and subsequent translation. In many societies such as Haiti. In anthropology. Neomelanesian or. In Papua New Guinea. as it was known earlier. but rather to deceive. transliteration and transcription became issues of concern. for example.

and untranslated in the eyes of a particular group. it can be considered an act of betrayal. the power differential was always an important factor in the nature of the translation. as Said has noted.Paula G. Often sacred rituals and spells must be kept secret. and its subsequent control and domination. Visual conventions certainly will affect the way in which the reader responds to a translated text. it might have deleterious effects. the performance aspect of the translation is a significant factor in determining receptor response. . One such site is translation” (Niranjana 1992: 1–2). The action or performance aspect is equally important in providing meanings which are to be translated. anthropology. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Oral. importantly involved the process of translation. for if the material is translated. and is a much discussed topic. The performativity aspect of a translation are also of some importance. using certain modes of representation of the Other. The conquest by the Western industrialized countries of much of the rest of the world. The translator’s preface and notes must discuss the decisions which have been made regarding the modes of representation which the translator has chosen to use. translation always has political implications. the practices of subjection implicit in the colonial enterprise operate not merely through the coercive machinery of the state. in Chapter 5. linguistics and literary interpretation. written and printed texts are different modes of representation and need to be distinguished. In the colonial context. An ethical position requires that the effects of a translation on local populations always be considered. If we do translate in such situations. since they are considered “untranslatable” locally. As noted above. Niranjana notes. history. the colonial ‘subject’ – constructed through technologies or practice of power/knowledge – is brought into being within multiple discourses and on multiple sites. but through discourses of philosophy. “. The first question posed is whether we translate at all. There is a difference between what translation means locally and our ideas about what we should translate. . There are things which are “dangerous” to translate. The colonized population had to be represented in a particular manner so as to justify colonial domination. The anthropologist must determine in particular situations – 18 – . philology. as Saler points out in his Chapter 8 in this volume. within which many anthropologists worked. reinforced “hegemonic” versions of the colonized in which they acquired the status of representations or objects without history. Translation. These became facts which governed events in the colonies (Niranjana 1992: 3) To whom are we answerable when we do a translation? This is a matter of ethics as well as power differentials. In Kapchan’s discussion of local translators who interpret classical Arabic texts in oral performances. Anthropologists doing translations of oral performances must attend not only to the words of the ritual. How does translation deal with these different forms (Yengoyan)? One could say further that print culture reworks the notion of knowledge and discourse (Yengoyan).

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology which cultural materials it is not ethical to translate. Some years ago an anthropologist doing fieldwork with the Cherokee in Oklahoma wrote an article in Current Anthropology, detailing the reasons why he did not publish the results of his research. He felt it was unethical to describe rituals which the Cherokee had revealed to him but considered to be sacred and not to be revealed to the outside world. Since what “they” mean by translation and what “we” mean by it may not be the same, translation may sometimes have difficult and unforeseen consequences. The ethical issue involves us in rethinking our own assumptions about our enterprise. We must consider what we do and why we do it and our assumption of our role as “translators” of the cultures and ways of life of others. We are mediators between two worlds, metaphorically like priests with the anthropologist having the sacerdotal authority of priests (Saler at the conference). Though translation always starts with a prescriptive approach to equivalence, the social context, the politics, whom the translation is being done for, why and how, as well as the translator’s relationship to those in the source and those in the target cultures, often determine the nature of the translation. Some Native Americans may resist translation, feeling that anthropologists “don’t translate but they impose” (Ortiz). Anthropologists are seen as interfering “(fucking around)” with people’s souls and with reality (Ortiz). One Native American expressed the feeling that even Native American anthropologists themselves are “torn apart” in the context of their anthropological research with their own people, in terms of what they do or do not reveal and translate. As anthropologists, we use particular concepts and words which are seen by non-anthropologists as jargon. The use of these concepts is seen as imposing categories upon the culture and way of life of the people, acting as a counter to the uniqueness of their culture, and serving to distort the encounter between the anthropologist and the native person. Some Native Americans in the Southwest have reached the point of refusing anthropologists permission to do research in their communities, even to the point of putting up signs that say “White man Keep Out”. In a curious way, although translation crosses boundaries it also creates barriers and antagonism. As we noted above, mistranslation is sometimes intentional, and falsification and mistranslation for political purposes sometimes occur. For example, Blier (at the conference) noted the fact the Freud, in his work on Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, did not discuss the horns on Moses’ head. These horns represent a deliberate and intentional mistranslation of “rays of light” from the Bible into horns, and was a way of demonizing Jews, in line with the general anti-Semitic attitude of the Catholic Church at that time. Obfuscation versus faithfulness is the issue here. Translation clearly involves dangers and difficulties for all who translate including anthropologists (Saler). One might pose the question, is faithfulness of translation always important? Are there situations where this axiom is not or should not be held to? – 19 –

Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman In what ways may translations be critiqued? Some say that only translators themselves can critique translations. One could also say that only an ethnographer who has done fieldwork in the same society can criticize an anthropological translation. For literary translations, it is the translation itself into the target language which has priority. The style and poetics exhibited in the translation are usually the basis for critical judgments. In anthropology, those who translate oral ritual and mythic materials have debated whether prose or poetic form better reflects the essence of this material, but this is clearly not a major aspect of translation in anthropology. Making decisions about the acceptance of an ethnographic text as a good translation relate to the ethnographer’s knowledge of the language as well as to various other factors such as the anthropologist’s grasp of the internal logic of the system and its meaning. The categorizations and classifications found in particular cultures, as we have noted above, are significant and this is true of the concept of translation itself. Only recently has the term “translation” been reduced in the scope of its meaning in the Western World to refer only to the translation from one language to another. Earlier, during the Renaissance, for example, it had many more meanings, and a much fuller semiotic range. Included in that range of meanings was the use of the word to refer to the movement or translation of souls or the body to heaven and the movement of something from one place to another (Segal in Chapter 9). Architecture is also seen as a form of translation. This is understandable if one sees architecture and language as homologous structures (Blier). However, one must recognize that many subject matters which we now see as distinct and separate categories had not been recognized as separate domains earlier. For example, in the West, the category, “art”, crystallized in the seventeenth century as did that of “religion” (Saler). As we can see, we in the West have our own categories which have changed through time. We must always be aware that indigenous categories may frequently differ from our own and we should not simply impose our categories in our translations. In the field situation we must be aware of the possibility of this difference. For example, Navajo sand painting has now come to be considered art by the Western world. Among the Navajo, the sand painting and its method of construction is part of the curing ritual. It is a transitory phenomenon whose existence is not prolonged after the ritual is concluded. A comparison of our discussion of translation studies and that concerning translation and anthropology reveals that translation is conceived of differently disciplinarily. Many of the issues with which literary translation and the literary critiques of translation are concerned do not parallel issues of concern to anthropologists in their translations (Yengoyan). We mentioned above the discussion relating to whether Native American cultural materials should be translated into prose or poetic forms. The aesthetic form of the translation is one factor with which literary translators concern themselves more than anthropologists do in their – 20 –

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology translations. Though the particular genres which are used in anthropological translations, the style and voice, the losses and gains, as well as the nature of the transliteration if that is involved, all constitute problems with which anthropologists must deal (Keane, Yengoyan). In our discussion of the various contributions of Translation Studies, concern for and emphasis upon the “consumer” of the translation and his or her comprehension was seen as an important issue. In a way, it is not only translators but also consumers who produce meaning (Herzfeld at the conference). They bring their own background and sensibility to the comprehension of the translation, though the translator still has the primary role of constructing the meaning of the translation. It is he or she who, in the final analysis, controls what is put out to the consumer. The cultural biases, conscious or unconscious, are operative unless the translator controls for these in the production of the translation. The anthropologist, in the “translation” of the local culture, sometimes conveys a particular message, as for example Malinowski, whose “translation” of the Trobriand Islanders was intended to convey the message of the “prelogical savage” (Yengoyan). Other anthropologists like Mead had their own sense of translation. In some of her ethnologies, the translation presented was consumer-oriented, that is, intended for the general public. One might further argue that the particular theoretical framework, which the anthropologist brings to the field situation, including the meta-theory of anthropology, has an effect on the “translation” of the local culture which is being made. It determines what is held back, what is pushed, in terms of what the translator thinks the receiver should receive (Yengoyan). In an interesting way, during this postmodern period, James Clifford and others have become “translators” for the discipline of anthropology, examining and deconstructing what we do for non-anthropologists and academics at large. Literary critics act as translators in the same manner, “translating” for those who read their critiques. Clifford’s translations have brought about a rethinking and a fundamental reexamination of how we do anthropology. The Translation and Anthropology Conference brought together individuals from different disciplines. Besides anthropology, art history, translation studies, Native American literature, religion and French were represented. Being from different disciplines meant that the participants brought their different disciplinary dispositions and presuppositions, making us recognize a very basic aspect of translation since the participants sometimes had to do some “translation” across disciplinary lines during the course of the discussions.

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Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman

Boas, Franz. Ethnology of the Kwakiutl. Thirty-fifth Annual Report of the Bureau Of American Ethnology for the Years 1913–1914. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution, 1921. Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997. Cronin, M. Translating Ireland: Translation, Languages and Cultures. Cork: Cork University Press, 1996. Ellen, R. F. Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct. New York: Academic Press, 1984, Malinowski, Bronislaw. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1961 [1922]. Niranjana, Tejaswini. Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism and the Colonial Contest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibibility: A History of Translation. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. —— The Scandals of Translation: Towards and Ethics of Difference. London and New York: Routledge, 1998. Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Werner, Oswald and Donald T. Campbell. “Translating, Working Through Interpreters, and the Problem of Decentering.” in A Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology. Naroll, Raoul and Ronald Cohen (eds). New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

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Part I General Problems of Translation

Aram A. Yengoyan

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Aside from some similarities.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation –1– Lyotard and Wittgenstein and the Question of Translation Aram A. From Boas onward. a more dominating framework on how translations are done can be imposed by linguistic methods and means of inquiry which are absent in more vague cultural translation attempts. I The first part of this chapter attempts to demarcate some of the intellectual concerns which stimulated various types of translation but also may have neglected other potential expressions of translation. The distinction between cultural and linguistic translation is blurred. Yet. Yengoyan Translations and the tensions in translation have always plagued anthropology. Usually cultural translations have been done through a frame which either stresses differences or serves as a means in which the “other” is portrayed in categories which are understandable to a Western audience. what linguists mean by semantics is hardly comparable to anthropological usage. and grammatical categories and distinctions – is usually more exacting in terms of rigor. be it in its scientific version or humanistic side. American historical anthropology stressed particularism which was closely connected to theories of relativism. On this matter. Furthermore. etc. The Americanists insisted that comparison and generalization were – 25 – . but also linguistics – as a discipline which covers phonological. with the persistent question of how cultural translations can be made without destroying the very subjects which we are attempting to convey.) have been used as glosses. morphological. Although traditional anthropological categories (such as kinship. lineage. cultural translations are less exacting and also less scientific. as well as in our efforts to generalize or forge a systematic study of human societies as Radcliffe-Brown demanded. but in general. Under Boas and his students. cultural translation (even linguistic translation) has seldom been directly addressed as an issue. not only do linguistic translations bring forth the language of the investigator. in our attempts toward comparison and what that meant. family. cultural translations and linguistic translations differ in a number of ways. anthropological theory regarding translation has been caught up in various conceptual developments.

Radin. Radin’s (1923) ethnography of the Winnebago goes further in denying all categories and generalizations. moved in many different directions regarding these matters. even one with minimal priority. Lowie in Primitive Society (1920). Radin (1923. Kroeber and Benedict in their insistence that generalizations. and cultural portraits (via Benedict) must be one of anthropology’s aims. If Radin is simply the passive scribe of the tribe. In his historical writings on Western civilization as expressed in The Configurations of Cultural Growth (1944) and other works and essays from the 1930s on. The Boasians. with limited or no connection to anything else. Boas. Lowie leaves the reader with the impression that kinship or polity in various societies embrace a series of institutions and behaviors which are highly variable. As early as 1909 Kroeber proposed categories of kinship analysis which later became analytic categories for componential analysis in the 1960s and 1970s. Kroeber’s position on particularism and relativism is somewhat more obtuse. Kroeber insisted that kinship terms were primarily linguistic rather than sociological. the empirical content therein is so diverse as to make the label meaningless. Written in the early 1930s. even weak comparisons. kinship and social organization. For example. Kroeber (1952: 175–81) also differed in part from the Boasian antinominalist position. 1933) and even Kroeber in his own way. however. in fact. Kroeber – 26 – . comparisons and generalizations of the evolutionists and the founders of British social anthropology (Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown) were only “law-like” because of the way phenomena were defined apart from an empirical existence. The reason they are called ‘kinship’ is simply the result of our definition of kinship as a category but. Radin’s heavy intellectual and moral commitment to localism. particularism and relativism might have been an embarrassment to Boas and some of the Boasians. enumerating cultural things the way people gave them to him. Yengoyan the ultimate goals which could only be achieved after the particular and the local were analyzed and understood. Lowie’s Primitive Society (1920) reads from one chapter to another like an attack on the creation and use of categories such as economy. From my reading of this ethnography. Radin’s Method and Theory in Ethnology (1933) is not only an attack on British anthropology but a devastating critique of Boas. translated Winnebago ethnography by simply giving the “facts” to the reader in the way the Winnebago gave the “facts” to him. In particular. They also stressed that the laws. all accepted an anti-nominalistic position. I would conclude that Radin’s account is the best and only example we have of a postmodern treatise which has eluded any contemporary notice of postmodern description. basically arguing against categories of analysis. whose only theoretical position was historical. However. politics.Aram A. then one is left to read 500 pages of text with virtually no conclusions. Thus. but the ideas did resonate well with Lowie and with some of Sapir’s non-linguistic writings.

Kroeber discusses “odd customs. since it violates the very subject it treats. Radcliffe-Brown stressed that societal differences could be related to a finite number of social structural types and/or subtypes. Although their approaches differ somewhat. In Anthropology (1948). was simply warning that the “heavy greasy hand” of the anthropologist in regard to explanation and interpretation must always be scrutinized. In this sense obeying a rule can only be done by one individual and only once. But Kroeber has another side in which the argument regarding generalization and facile theory is accepted with marked caution and even contempt. however. For Malinowski. which has been part of our intellectual genealogy. he further warns that analysis may cause the phenomena to dissolve into something else with no reality. Wittgenstein makes it clear that “obeying a rule. has a critical and marked impact on our concerns for translation. While the Americans stressed differences over similarities. textbooks noted that what anthropology conveyed was the range of socio-cultural differences and similarities expressed within the arc of human variation. if any.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation moves toward a form of generalization. can only capture one facet of how the game of language is played.” which has been one of the markers of grammatical analysis. Most of these developments were attacked by Boas in the 1930s. Kroeber stresses that we should always be concerned with the potential violation of the nature of the object which may succumb to vapid and banal explanations. and reviews theories which may explain the practice. there were only surface differences in culture which were directed toward the universality of our biological constitution as well as what human nature meant. While such is an issue (if not a problem) in anthropology. past or contemporary writers who would argue such a position – only in the heyday of theoretical triteness.” such as the couvade. since the context in which rules are played changes and those changes have an impact on what the rule is and – 27 – . and they were heavily criticized by Radin throughout his writings. he also makes it clear that some customs/practices should only be described and that is the best we can do. we might extend our inquiries to how problems of translation have been comprehended by Wittgenstein and Lyotard. Furthermore. Kroeber. both writers have started their inquiries with marked particularism and relativism. Kroeber argues that these explanations are trite and even worthless. There have been few. In Philosophical Investigations (1958). In support of this position. comparison and interpretation which culminates in Anthropology (1948). early British anthropology took the reverse position. II The emphasis on the particular and the enhancing and deepening of the idea of difference. His critique is a heavy attack on Malinowski’s hypotheses which explain couvade and other “exotic” behaviors.

Some writers have wrongly concluded that many aspects of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on language are a form of behaviorism.” The technique is far beyond the rules per se and would embrace the whole context of language. in more recent contemporary thinking. 114) states “One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature over and over again. As Wittgenstein (1958.Aram A. but it is fairly clear that when Wittgenstein enunciates the word “pain. The implications of these contrasts sharpen Wittgenstein’s conception of language and language games. since the private aspect of language would have to collapse and combine the act of thinking about a rule as isomorphic to obeying a rule. 199) states “To understand a sentence means to understand a language. Thus language is an organizer of experience as well as the framing of contexts which bear on the speaker and also evoke memories which speakers bring forth to explain experience. Throughout his discussion of language and any possibility of translation. it must be understood as the essence of language. “pain” is still first and foremost a mental term which is not reducible. Rules are caught up in customs. language is a form of life or a frame which embeds all of what we consider as grammar. To understand a language means to be master of a technique. From Wittgenstein to the recent work by Becker. para. Both sets of contrasts I consider as parallel. Yengoyan how it is expressed. but of more importance to me is that the idea of difference becomes the barometer of accepting statements which we can call truth. As long as difference(s) become the bottom line. Language as image creates the varying propositions which we use and state and express to ourselves throughout our language experiences. the issue of difference and specificity is only one facet of particularism. For Wittgenstein.” Following from Wittgenstein’s approach. Wittgenstein knows the rules of chess but also notes that the stamping of feet or yelling during the match might be part of the context of the game. and the context. his major challenge to the issue is how language is evoked by memory and memory-reaction. which for Wittgenstein means uses and institutions.” This type of specificity would never be limited to a rule which is privately conceived. which establishes how the performance of rules occur. it becomes virtually impossible to invoke any form of translation. But grammar per se does not and will not capture the essence of language games. and one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it. As an avid chess player. which one might never fully contemplate or even arrive at. as the contrast between the factual and the counterfactual. or what Becker (1995) has called “languaging. Becker (1995: 288) concludes that the specificity of language is primarily orientational (as opposed to denotational).” and although “pain” is expressive of behavioral parameters. Do the rules of chess exclude such behaviors or customs? From this postulate Wittgenstein (1958: para. Although Wittgenstein has a relatively negative view of the privatization of language. Wittgenstein’s position is nearly always linked to the contrast between the argument and the counterargument or. – 28 – .

what he labels Modern Philology. Becker’s (1995) appeal for a return to philology. and what Becker calls languaging.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation consequently language. On this basis. that being the phrase. Yet in dealing with distantly related languages. Lyotard develops the idea that the phrase is the most minimal unit of analysis which embeds and combines the context in which language occurs. must be comprehended as portraits and readings which are basically non-comparable. The overall idea is that the differend cannot or should not be collapsed into another in which one phrase regimen is dissolved into the other. translation is the writing of cultural portraits or language portraits as texts. prior texts. what are we translating. an ethics and a strategy. the problem remains: namely. or both sides of the phrase regimen are dissolved into something else. In both Wittgenstein and Becker. his conviction is that only a sense of difference and heterodoxy can minimize political domination based on global theory and homogeneity which sweeps away and obliterates all voices based on the local and the particular. Lyotard’s The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (1988) represents an even more acute and radical move in the direction of particularism and difference.” In this vein. these problems are not only difficult but virtually insurmountable. In Becker’s analysis. social factors. Each of these portraits. even if we know what that is. the parts to the whole. and they also require both memory retrieval and new memories combined with possibly radical prior texts which an outsider might be unable to master or even approximate. Although Lyotard is concerned about the political aspects of differend. This name is an Ideal of practical or political reason in the Kantian sense. shapes and attunes speakers to context and in turn defines how context bears on speakers. prior texts and frames which embed and create action. But the political agenda has far-reaching effects in regards to language and any possibility of translation. can any form of translation be adequately accomplished? The conclusion from my reading is that it cannot be done. Lyotard’s concern is to move toward the most minimal “thing” which creates and maintains difference. Any translation from one language to another assumes that the phrase of the departing language is – 29 – . I suspect that. and how silence is constituted. a tradition which goes from Benedict to Geertz in cultural anthropology. Lyotard takes the phrase from Stendhal “Be a popular hero of virtù like Bonaparte” as an assignment of prescriptive value to the name/label Bonaparte. is premised on the approach that the primary task of the modern version of philology is describing and interpreting these different frames. Contexts are radically and differently shaped. frames involve a range of contexts which include the physical world. Lyotard (1988: 48) emphatically argues that phrases are governed by different regimens which cannot be translated into each other. for the anthropologist. Lyotard (1988: 48) states: “A phrase which attaches a life-ideal to a man’s name and which turns that name into a watchword is a potentiality of instructions. In a series of examples. either as cultural behavior or as speech. and.

Even if translation is attempted in language (a position which was unacceptable in The Differend). In this sense languages can only be described within their own historical contexts. The process of glossing from one language to another is seldom if ever a neutral act. still concludes “How then can phrases belonging to different regimes and/or genres (whether within the same language or between two languages) be translated from one into the other?” (Lyotard 1988: 49). but his critique is that translation in any form is virtually impossible. the baggage of culture from near texts to distant texts in time and space cannot be surmounted.” Furthermore. yet we can never get into how one/the speaker inhabits the language or the culture. Yengoyan recoverable in the phrase of the receiving language. since the phrase regimen is highly specific within each language and not only is that phrase regimen a qualitative variable between languages. but that every translation begets another one. but the barriers are still as marked as in his 1988 position. Lyotard would probably support this position. This is what linguists have done with the procedures of parsing and glossing which have been accepted as a normal methodology.” Here Lyotard sees translation as a triangulation in which both languages resonate with one another through a third meta-structure which produces or generates similar analogies with each other. who does not address the problems of parsing and glossing. In Postmodern Fables (1997). it must also approximate the “manners” of thought. Translations assume that the regimen and its corresponding genre are analogous to another language or one set of regimen/genre in language “A” has a counterpart in language “B. Lyotard is more open to the possibility of translation. but each language through its history must work from different regimens which are temporally specific. Lyotard recognizes the possibility and also correctly argues that translation is not only an infinite task with no closure. or we can impose our thought – 30 – .Aram A. due to the fact that languages by definition are translatable (Lyotard. As Becker (1995) emphatically notes. other forms are not directly translated from language A to B and back. translations from one language to another are one type of translation. In reading his essay “Directions to Servants” (based on Jonathan Swift’s essay on how one talks to servants). Again we return to the problem which Wittgenstein noted and which Becker calls languaging. Any adequate translation for Lyotard is not only a matter of respecting thought. At best we can only get glimpses of the past and the distant as bits of this and that: either the bits impose on our thought. 1997: 153). just as Stendhal used the Bonaparte imagery. But the final problem still exists in that we might extrapolate one’s language or even phrase regimens. but also in what Lyotard calls pertinences which are “transversal. thus one is never at home in another’s home. Lyotard casts translation as partly a cultural matter. One’s thought is translatable as much as the speaker’s. Lyotard. the claims of universality through translation is a political expression in which the language of the powerful becomes the measure or barometer in which universality is forged.

“Two apparently contradictory laws are involved in all uttering. but each life style of speech is filled with silences which might escape any translation. “Every utterance is exuberant” – it conveys more than it plans and includes not a few things we would wish left silent. Lyotard is also keenly aware of the impact of noise (and possibly silence though not directly addressed) on thought. but my reading is that his postmodernism is an intellectual and political appeal for the situational and the particular. Many writers view Lyotard as the most dominant voice in postmodernism. but the real beauty of housecleaning as translation is to keep disorder and partial chaos as part of the process. situational and particular events/data would include observations which we think might be incomparable.” One says. Translation is thus a form of house-cleaning which might be tidy. situational analysis. we could conclude that in Lyotard’s philosophy of language (like Wittgenstein’s) the grammatical mode of the sentence is primary. Returning to language. The model logic of each sentence (or phrase) is primarily comprehended by the different logics which impinge on the sentence. one where difference is paramount and the contradictions can only be noted but not resolved. the problems of any “adequate and approximate” translation might be insurmountable. but the sentence cannot rest on grammar per se. Lyotard also moves the discussion from discourse to contextualization. Lyotard and Becker. – 31 – . once again by glossing the particular and possibly unique into our thought with all of the political facets of domination which our thought might embrace. For anthropologists. it returns to Wittgenstein’s caution regarding private language games. Becker (1995) readily notes that grammar is limiting in what we can or cannot say. where figure presupposes reference and is configured in difference. the opposite. One cannot address one’s thought. which is another form of discourse. “Every utterance is deficient” – it says less than it wishes to say. Thought for Lyotard is linked to the noise of language either through discourse or through writing. The exuberances and deficiencies either say more than we know or less than what we intend. Translation is a combination and exchange of representation and self-effacement. since there is no resolution in translation. and a phenomenological commitment in which figure reigns over discourse. Citing Ortega y Gasset (1957. Though I would argue against this position. III Apart from the cautionary strictures regarding translation as set forth by Wittgenstein. 1959). declares. translation between languages is still somewhat more feasible in comparison to translation between phrase regimes which cannot be translated. In his attack on grand theory. The other law. one can only listen to noise which generates thought. Yet.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation on the bits. Furthermore.

Pawley correctly notes that the problem in translation is to find adequate equivalents between English and Kalam. a language in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea.” The job of the translator can be defined roughly as taking the message or idea that someone has expressed in language A and rendering the message in language B in a way that speakers of B will understand readily. does one find certain features which fall into one or the other category? Translation is not neutral. In this sense. Working with Kalam. Yengoyan All translations face this problem. but the difficult strictures which make glossing an impossibility are minimized. often speakers of the receiving language might be unable to comprehend the categories. be it spoken or written.Aram A. following Bulmer. nevertheless. Pawley. and thus the speakers live in partially different conceptual schemes (Pawley 1991: 442). and they would also exist in the metalanguage of the translation process. Boas faced this issue in working on Kwakiutl texts and English. hunting in Kalam can be grasped. in the process of parsing and glossing. Pawley (1991: 434) stresses the point that “Translation is something that language users do with particular ideas expressed by particular texts. and the same problem occurs in moving from German to Aranda. glossing between distant languages is and has always been a problem. since what is of more interest is to demarcate what is deficient and exuberant in the home language of the translator and also to note what the near or distant text. As Pawley (1991) notes. but one could speculate that certain aspects of language and languaging might have a cross-cultural basis from which one aspect of languaging across languages falls more in one direction as opposed to its counterpart. Most grammars deal with rules. attempts a looser translation which might lose some of the subtleness of information but the meaning will be conveyed. in comparing the language of the translator to the language of the distant speaker. If we return to our common thinking about traditional grammars. the matter of glossing is still an issue. but we can also learn something about the procedural basis of translation. Even though hunting in Kalam is not the same as hunting in English. translation involves explicating their conceptual scheme even if it does not completely “resonate” with ours. In his appeal for pragmatic translation. we might recast the problem in another way. This is not the only issue. Even a “simple” label like hunting might have no good equivalent in both languages. Both conditions (deficiencies and exuberances) rest in the language of the translator. however. However. which will be – 32 – . grammars of the type we have read are seldom done in an idiomatic mode which is useful for the speakers of the language as well as for the translator. but this might reflect that the speakers of the two languages do not share conceptual categories in common and their ways of talking about the world might not resonate with one another. In a literal rendering which maintains the conceptual scheme of the original language. Again. Glossing of this type would be easier (and probably safer) between languages which are related. does with deficient and exuberant markers. but they do not tell us how to say things.

which provide lifestyles and meaning to a particular society. Experiential universals are those of experience. not only in the mind’s dealings with reality in any specific situation. It should be noted that the contrast between actualized categories and unconscious categories has some connections with the Boasian and Lévi-Straussian distinction between surface structures and underlying structures. From this range of possible forms. Culture is composed of those categories. Lévi-Strauss 1963). round.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation elaborated on in more detail in the discussion. In either case. When Freud or Turner (1967: 88) state that red symbolizes blood they are claiming that this is a universal inductive generalization from a universal human experience. but also in its overall potential for abstraction. The quest for universals requires an analytic distinction between innate and experiential universals. etc. and culture as consciousness. If a subject matter which vaguely resonates with speakers of two different languages can be created. it might be easier to devise some semi-conventional modes of thinking and articulation between both languages and their speakers. Such universals are roughly equivalent to Chomskian universals or categories of thought/structural categories in the Lévi-Straussian sense. Culture consciousness designates that part of the total mental capacity which is actualized or realized by or ‘in’ a particular culture. Innate universals are probably genetically programmed and they may include certain specific categories such as features of shape (flat. actual and conscious. each particular society takes a segment as ‘its’ culture (cf. What sets off one culture from another. its capacity to operate in situations not specifically given in a particular culture context. The former refers to the mental ability to categorize and abstract. long. either consciously or unconsciously. I propose a basic distinction between culture as a potential set of categories of thought. but also as intersecting structures of categories. and what each culture emphasizes. is a set of realized categories or structures. Where I would differ from the latter contrast is that actualized categories need not be completely at the level of the unconscious. but more important they are ‘inductive’ and ‘empirical’.). the universal refers to the ability and potential of the mind to abstract. conceptualize and categorize in terms of various combinations of thought which are not determined by the content of thought. They come into play when consciousness is expanded and – 33 – . IV In order to devise a method for cultural translation. Most important is the assumption that this universal set of thought is a mental process characteristic of and shared equally by all human cultures. Universal forms of thought occur not only in terms of categories of thought.

Aram A. Structures change over time. The distinction between implicit categories of culture and the conscious categories of a culture is also distorted by anthropological inquiry. but this does not mean that such mental processes are absent. The assumption is basically similar to what the philosopher Michael Polanyi (1966) designates as tacit knowledge. the creativity of the mind is precisely in those areas of thought and ideas which are not readily transmittable through verbal discourse. The expression of rules pertaining to marriage. This point is critical since I am assuming that more ideas and thought exist than words or linguistic forms to express these ideas. Culture rests in both actual and conscious categories. Thus the existence of metaphor and rhetoric and their differential utilization in various cultures brings forth the unique human ability to create and transmit ideas through the manipulation of language. and it is at this level where history manipulates and. at times. Yengoyan when different (and possibly new) categories and groupings emerge to explain the growth of consciousness. Imposition of etic consciousness on the consciousness of the people results in – 34 – . In reality each individual is aware of his cultural context. but it also compounds the problem when the anthropologist imposes his consciousness or his models on the culture. mutilates structure. and history is the critical link between the universal and ‘a’ culture. In fact.” The two are quite different due to a number of distortions which occur through the process of history and change. This type of activity violates the nature of the phenomena and it also displaces our inquiry further from the realm of their knowledge. Normally anthropologists assume that what people are conscious of is isomorphic with the totality of potential knowledge. We should not assume that history and change have destroyed the existence of the universal. Universal sets of categorization and structures of thought are contrasted to particular manifestations which occurs as “a culture. thus what is needed is the determination of how consciousness can be evoked for other areas of thought which are both/either subconscious and/or unconscious. Diachronic processes gradually modify and channel what is universal. From actualized categories only a portion ever fall into the realm of consciousness to the participants. ritualized behavior. and in many cases the overt expression of cultural forms cannot be related to antecedent conditions. much of culture is conscious and is manifest through behavior and verbalized rules and patterns to explain what the behavior means and why it exists. Categories. myth and cosmology are conscious to individual participants. abstractions and conceptualizations as well as certain processes which are not verbalized or cannot be linguistically labeled will be unconscious. Not only does the anthropological inquiry collapse consciousness of actual and potential categories into a single level of analysis. Although some aspects of a culture are unconscious to its members. since the universal as a concept might not appear in every case or its appearance may be modified.

What appears of interest in numeral classifications is the almost total dependence on the visual feature of form. It is imperative that for analytical and theoretical purposes we must not fail to distinguish between each form of consciousness. the mind may classify by gender alone and the fact that certain Malayo-Polynesian languages do not verbalize it should not be accepted as an indicator that the mental ability to categorize by gender is absent. Thus returning to my original assumption. conceptualization and categorization is greater than language as well as being prior to the evolution of language. humans are not categorized on the basis of gender alone. Gender often occurs in status-based systems but again only as a secondary or tertiary categorization. There are few metaphors based on sound. age is the primary distinction. while in insular Southeast – 35 – . is vast and in all probability infinite. However. The criterion of gender appears in all of the kinship-based classifier systems.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation conclusions and theory which are doubly removed from what culture encompasses or from the total potential which the mind is capable of comprehending. In the distinction between human/non-human there is more than one class for humans. shape and function. Underlying this particular linguistic function is the sense of sight while the sense of smell is ignored. Thus in East Africa one expects to find lineages. and furthermore recognizes a portion of the total potential. In the analysis of numeral classifiers. thus. In some languages such as Vietnamese. But more important is the ability of the mind to be more inclusive for thought while only a fragment of its potential emerges on the behavioral and linguistic level of discourse. only some of which is “logical” as Western science and humanities know it. but only as a secondary differentiation among members of a specific generation. age grades. and segmentary societies. The second critical issue relates to the problem of methodology. The mind can devise and create all sorts of categories and relationships: it can abstract in infinite ways. yet language expresses a small segment of this vast assortment of thought. Humans are grouped according to social rank or according to kinship but not both. taste or smell. Regardless of the yield which eyes or smell present. occupation is secondary while sex is tertiary. In most languages. the ability of the mind for abstraction. most parameters of classification are based on animateness. a woman is classified by the occupation she holds and not by gender. since previous accounts note their existence. feel. the mind’s ability to classify in many ways. thus consciousness only deals with a fragment of cultural systems. fieldworkers are primarily concerned with the relationship of their conceptual models to those known and accepted for the groups one is studying. In the analysis of culture. Thus we can never assume that what people say or do represents the totality of what they know. most of which are not linguistic. An illustration of this variation is found in a work on numeral classification systems among certain languages in south-east Asia and other Austronesian languages (Adams and Conklin 1973).

yet maintain meaning to cultural participants. Such attempts in cultural translation would focus on how qualitatively different cultural forms are translatable into other cultural systems which on the overt level possess no common similarities. a point is eventually reached when a consultant states that an utterance is nonsense. Fieldwork in a particular culture usually reifies one’s conceptual scheme. since the final product of the translation is a mental exercise in the minds of cultural participants. but once we accept this we are in a dilemma of dealing with cultural differences on the one hand and structural similarities on the other hand. The tolerance for understanding speech is truly vast. However. however. and by conscious manipulation of rules we might detect how informants relate to variations and modifications without complete loss of meaning. Seeking jural rules provides one mode of access to ethnographic order. it is simply wrong and he or she does not recognize what is transmitted. we can determine how informants recognize patterns or rules. It is in the realm of evoking consciousness that mental processes can be detected. In cultural translation. This form of standard anthropological investigation is adequate. the structures that result from these inquiries are the result of our own anthropological etic. and not solely within the – 36 – . Traditional social inquiry has focused on the opposite direction. but such inquiry does not evoke consciousness among cultural participants. Translation of culture through the evoking of consciousness in consultants minimizes the influence of these etic interpretations. Traditional anthropological translations have simply not recognized the problem of how consciousness may be evoked. Of more importance and interest is to take rules as the starting point and determine how far rules and order can be manipulated in different ways and varying directions.Aram A. Rules are regarded as paramount. By starting from cultural categories and conscious codes. anthropologists should redirect research to an understanding of how consciousness on the implicit cultural level may be evoked. The linguist starts from order in grammar and gradually re-alters order and meaning in different ways with the objective of determining if different utterances still maintain meaning to consultants. and the meaning for consciousness of a particular form is absent. that how these processes are connected to other activities can be observed. What commonly results is that a person can relate to this variation and manipulation of order in that it transmits meaning though the particular utterance is far from ‘correct’. At this point it could be said that the consultant’s acceptance of expressive possibility has reached its limit. and that the extent to which one’s conscious abilities permit comprehension of other cultural forms can be determined. and it may add more “credence” to the existing knowledge of a particular cultural area or cultural type. Yengoyan Asia cognatic societies are prevalent and from this knowledge the fieldworker can generate specific ethnographic models which fit a broader picture. but it does this at the expense of real insight into the structures underlying emic interpretations and behavior.

However. the consultant participates actively in producing the cultural translation. The distinction between different spheres of knowledge. anthropologists have assumed the position that. In this scenario. however. A case in support of this is found in the work of the German Lutheran missionary. During this period. Linguists are aware of embeddedness and its implications in understanding universals. is critical in developing the relationship between the universal and the particular.” It is illusory to argue that gaps in particular cultural systems are a denial of the universal. it is nonexistent. the art and act of translation is never neutral. with the introduction of money along with the English counting system. Strehlow realized that the use of the past tense in German distorted how Aranda myths based in the most distant past were propelled into the present (and possibly the most – 37 – .Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation terms of the anthropological etic (Yengoyan 1978. either as conscious categories or as the potential of thought. it also appears that in some cases. the whole idea of counting was mastered with virtually no problem. Initially. thus masking their appearance. Carl Strehlow who lived among the Aranda of Central Australia from about 1894 to 1922. as opposed to assuming that the universal exists as a concept and attempting to realize how the process of embeddedness operates in masking and altering appearances. Discussion As previously noted. The problem of embeddedness of one form or concept in another is critical and widespread. if a cultural form is not apparent. In the case of potential categories as a universal set of concepts or forms. and anthropologists and linguists must devise means for analyzing how this process operates. but that among the Walbiri it does not exist as part of the cultural context. a language which has a highly complex set of tenses (and/or aspect) which are used in remarkable ways in regard to the matters of sacredness as opposed to mundane activities. In tracing the processes regarding neutrality in translation. This involves the issue of embeddedness in which the presence of a feature is subsumed under another category or set of features. the particular conscious manifestation takes numerous forms. as well as how matters of time link the most ancient past to the near past to the recent past and to the present. in some cases it is absent while in other cultures certain universal features are distorted or are embedded in other forms. The kinds of gaps which exist in particular languages or grammars may also provide parallel gaps in “Cultures. The universal is a concept and the particular manifestation of the universal might be absent in certain cases of cultural analysis. the first or earliest translations might be closer to “neutrality” as opposed to succeeding translations of the same language. Strehlow translated various parts of the Bible into Aranda. In attempting to capture the nuances of how time and sacredness co-vary. the distinction has been discussed by Kenneth Hale (1975) who brilliantly demonstrates that counting is a universal. 1979).

there is always loss in translation. – 38 – . meaning some semblance of economic and political uniformity and dominance – such as English and French in which translation and critique evolve as a dialectic expression – have the virtue of rendering access and creativity in each language as a positive critique of itself and the other. if neutrality is a vague ideal which might be approximated. reprinted in Schulte et al. Again. Yet. Again. 1992). Strehlow. the current global cultural wars between Anglophone and Francophone worlds of influence and domination is approaching a state of semi-inequality. The Strehlow case is hardly unique. it appears that early translations by individuals who were not professional linguists probably were a closer approximation of these languages and also how a translation could be done without a gross violation of the language under observation. written in the early 1850s. Asad (1993: 189) warns us that a critique must be based on a good translation. Thus. who possessed a fine knowledge of Aranda without having the baggage of an intellectual discipline on his shoulders. but in the limitations of German. this movement through time without finalization is done through the use of the imperfective. which is the nearest equivalent in German (and English) to what is found in Aranda. Again. First. correctly realized that the problem was not in Aranda. assuming that a good translation is in part based on two languages which are more or less equal according to the strictures of power. is still considered one of the best grammars on Burmese. returning to Ortega y Gasset (1937.” especially in English. Second. Strehlow. This small case is instructive on a number of grounds. the problem is compounded by what Asad (1993: 189) calls “unequal languages.Aram A. although even in such a case one might not find this possible. but surely the loss in his case is far less than what happens when the subject matter of disciplines becomes oversystemized and -formalized. Since his work. which is problematic and in most cases has hardly any reflex in Aranda. translations of these biblical texts have been done in English in which the translators have gradually moved away from the imperfective to the past tense. one finds Burmese flowing in and through his analysis which in turn is almost vacuous of what the science of language had to offer at that time.” Languages of some equality. Yengoyan distant future). In Aranda. the grammar and dictionary by Adoniram Judson. In the analysis of Burmese. But the imperfective is relatively “awkward. even among “equal” languages such as English and French. even translations from Spanish to French and from French to Spanish are chaotic in terms of what is lost let alone misunderstood. could capture the nuances of how biblical texts could be translated into Aranda and how Aranda texts on myth could be brought into German. I am arguing that the study of languages became more and more “scientific” as linguistics emerged as an empirical and theoretical endeavour so that the study of language was undertaken in order to verify or dispute certain facets of theoretical linguistics. understanding that Aranda was to be the standard from which other translations flowed. Yet.

Greek. The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. to what extent any language can be transformed. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. this last is true only if one takes language seriously enough. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works. Professionalization combined with desires to create uniformity in method and theory throughout the social sciences always work against the idea of difference. namely the power relationships of the dominant socio-political context is such that the languages of the third. how language differs from language almost the way dialect differs from dialect. image. . . but also characterized by a marked and radical differentiation in inequality. If anthropologists like Asad and myself and linguists like Becker lament how the language and power of the colonizer have formed relations of inequality which are irreversible. not if one takes it lightly. proceed from a wrong premise. and tone converge. Particularly when translating from a language very remote from his own he must go back to the primal elements of language itself and penetrate to the point where work. The problem of power differences is the basis of linguistic imperialism as expressed in our attempts at translation. Asad (1993) explores the various facets in which the translation process becomes a forcible transformation. Perspectives The essential challenge for anthropology lies in the process of translation – both linguistic and cultural translation. . however. Greek. English. They want to turn Hindi. even the best ones. English into German instead of turning German into Hindi. Works by Wittgenstein and Lyotard address the – 39 – . The contemporary far-reaching effects of globalization and the transnational movements of a global culture have a lineal connection to what Benjamin might have predicted.or fourth-world speakers receive no voice. it is also connected to the intellectual hegemony of Western academia as it spread globally.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation The impact of loss in translation is even greater in languages which are not only distant. it goes without saying that current concerns about language extinction and cultural genocide are the parts of a process which started and unfolded in the nineteenth century. This expression of inequality was noted by Walter Benjamin (1969 [1923]) in his reference to and citation of Pannwitz: Our translations. In part this process was not only a matter of world imperialism. yielding a situation in which the language of the colonized is framed and re-framed into the language of the colonizer.

and the possible manifestation of chaos. there might be no “right way” but the task is still before us. the problem is aptly summarized by his concern that “What is decisive is not to get out of the circle but to come into it the right way. if anything. and while one imagines that the nature of something has been stated. which results from the nuanced interrelations between form and content in any given context. from one picture which only yields one image or one portrait? We can never enter the same river twice but what. Yengoyan implications and complexities involved in this process. a task undertaken with the utmost caution.Aram A. One is the ongoing critical discussion in Marxist aesthetics between form and content. can we say about the river? Entering the frame must always be a task of translation. invoking the phrase regime as the ultimate level where difference exists. For Wittgenstein. or even a class-driven social system. Introducing the contrast between form and content to the problem of translation might allow us to clarify in what directions previous attempts in translation theory have moved and to what extent we can go beyond them. 1962). both Wittgenstein and more so Lyotard keenly understood the dangers of uniformity in its various expressions. – 40 – . By stressing the importance of difference as an intellectual concern and as a political agenda. be it translation. Wittgenstein and Becker. language creates the varying propositions which we use in daily expressions. These differences in philosophical approaches again bring us back to two fundamental points of departure. language. Contexts and events change. especially in dealing with distant texts and languages. To cast the issue in another way with more implications for anthropology is to raise again the age-old problem of accounts/descriptions which move from the inside to the outside. really only the frame through which we see the thing is traced in expression. and those which start on the outside and move to the inside. For Heidegger (Being and Time. but this also brings forth the issues of content and dialectics. they direct our focus on how forms as frames are delimited and perpetually changing. At most. we can describe frames and form. Although these developments are hardly Marxist. both of whom are fully aware of how content is as critical as form. echo the ongoing debate between form and content. If Heidegger saw the problem as one of moving from the external to the internal.” For anthropologists and less so for linguists. Does this mean that the frame and framing is the only venture which we can accomplish? Is there any possibility of entering into the whole from one frame. The roots of this position return us to the Ancient Greeks captured in Heraclitus’ insight that one can never step in the same river again. frames are altered and at most we again return to Wittgenstein’s previously cited warning that we are perpetually tracing the frame. Difference as the start and the end of the translation endeavour is always there. Wittgenstein invokes the sentence as the final expression where difference lies whereas Lyotard moves even closer toward difference and particularism.

As Coetzee (2001: 30) notes. but an inward direction to the idea of what words mean. Most of our translations can be characterized as developments in form over content and possibly the dominance of the outside over the inside. Coetzee (2001) clearly demonstrates that Benjamin’s atheoretical approach to the Arcades Project reveals the limitations of this perspective. the novelist and literary critic J. But if anthropology. the idea of mimesis in language is out of step with current linguistic science. The parallel to the Arcades project is apparent in Benjamin’s approach to translation which was also committed to an internal approach linking words and meanings towards the Idea. And the jury is the speakers of a language. But Benjamin was always leery of theorizing. since it imposed an external constraint on the very phenomena which he was attempting to interpret from the inside. stimulating negative responses from Adorno and Brecht. In a recent piece. cultural or linguistic. Thus translations. but the problems encountered by Benjamin remain our problems. Our language and meta-language regarding translation differs from other intellectual traditions. argue that to know and convey a culture is to know its geist. which is the classic Saussurean assumption. a framework which questioned the assumption that form is primary to content. But in the history of language. It is only the “inside” and the “content” which is the final jury on closure. which is quite different from binary theories of language that culminate in the nineteenth century and eventually in the works of Saussure. but we must realize that translations are performed so that difference is always presented as part of our quest for understanding the variability in the human condition. The challenge for translation is that it must convey simultaneously both difference and similarity of meaning. and the actors of a culture. then that can only be understood and interpreted as a matter of content which provides the uniqueness which local cultures and languages express. create and manifest. Anthropology as a cultural translation might appear peripheral to these genealogies of intellectual history. Coetzee (2001) clarifies this matter in Benjamin’s writing by stressing that words are not simply binary transactions. and our attempts are only approximations which only the speakers of a language can critique. or some segments of anthropology. Apart from the inside/outside contrast. the perpetual conflict between translation of form and translation of content and how these can be combined theoretically is a continual dilemma in either a Marxist or a non-Marxist approach. the words in a language were simply not signifiers. the Benjamin position goes back to the sixteenth.and seventeenth-century concepts that language was essentially a ternary linkage. Translation is an impossibility. M. For Benjamin. but that they also reflect a directiveness which resonates with the Idea which is Benjamin’s critical concern for language as a form of mimesis.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation it was Benjamin’s attempts at translation which invoked the inside position. – 41 – . might be full of misery and fraught with problems which are almost insurmountable.

“Gaps in Grammars and Cultures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. F. 1975. Benjamin. 28–33. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. New York: Harper. Primitive Society. New York: Harcourt. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. Kroeber. Martin. their efforts saved me from some critical mistakes. Jean-François. L. Structural Anthropology. Illuminations. Smith-Stark.” New York Review of Books 48. L. – 42 – . L. —— The Nature of Culture. Configurations of Culture Growth. K. Asad. Beyond Translation: Essays Toward a Modern Philology. and N. Lyotard. José. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. C. A. K. Corum. Walter. Becker. —— Postmodern Fables. 1962. T.). Hale and O. M. F. Being and Time. New York: Basic.Aram A. New York: Schocken. Hale. Heidegger. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press. Robert. Werner (eds. Voegelin. 1988. pp. Weisler (eds. Lowie. 1995. M. —— Anthropology. Rainer and John Biguenet (eds. 2001. Berkeley: University of California Press. and A. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1993. “Toward a Theory of Natural Classification. 1969[1923]. C. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. K. 1997.). Brace and World. 1944.” In Linguistics and Anthropology: In Honor of C.” In Papers from the Ninth Regional Meeting: Chicago Linguistic Society. L. J. “The Marvels of Walter Benjamin. Ortega y Gasset. pp. New York: Horace Liveright Publishing Corp. A. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1948. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Coetzee. pp. Yengoyan Acknowledgments I wish to thank Victor Golla and Kendall House for their acute and perceptive reading of the first version of this chapter. 1952. 1–10. References Adams.. Claude. 295–315. 1920. 1937/1992. D. “The Misery and Splendor of Translation. 93–112. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kinkade. Talal. January 11.” In Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida.. 1963.). pp. Conklin. Lévi-Strauss. Schulte. 1973. L.

W. 3rd ed. 1957. and Aram A. No. Auckland: The Polynesian Society.. 1991. —— “Cultural Forms and a Theory of Constraints. —— “The Difficulty of Reading. Smithsonian Institution. Andrew. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 146–155. New York: Doubleday. V. – 43 – . —— The Method and Theory of Ethnology: An Essay in Criticism. 1967. New York: Macmillan. Pawley.). Polanyi. Wittgenstein. Yengoyan. Alton L. Radin. Andrew (ed. 28.). Philosophical Investigations.” In Australian Aboriginal Concepts. Norton. 325–330. 1979. Paul. pp. (ed. Reissued 1965. New York: Basic. and Problems of Translation: The Kariera System in Cross-Cultural Perspective.” In Man and a Half: Essays in Pacific Anthropology and Ethnobiology in Honor of Ralph Bulmer. 1958. 1933. Yengoyan (eds.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation —— Man and People. Ludwig. 1978. Michael. New Jersey: Ablex. 1966. R. Hiatt. The Winnebago Tribe.). Winter. Turner. 1959. “Saying Things in Kalam: Reflections on Language and Translation. New York: W.” In The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems. “Culture. 1923. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. A. L. Becker. Pawley. Consciousness.” Diogenes. The Tacit Dimension. pp. W. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology. A.


I will argue. and is especially difficult in the sorts of situations that translators are in. The latter parts of the chapter consist of a discussion of some suggestions for how translators and belief ascribers can get around these fundamental problems. The view that continues to be dominant in philosophy (and cognitive science) is one that views translation – interpreting the sentences of an alien speaker – as a species of the problem of ascribing beliefs to an agent.” in its ability to “reconstitute and cheapen foreign texts” (1991). Translation and Belief Ascription In the academic world there are numerous theories of what translation is all about. even if one were to successfully figure out what alien peoples believe at a particular time. In this chapter. Venuti has even described this process as being like “terrorism. If translation is construed as figuring out what others believe when they utter or write certain words. then fundamental difficulties in alien belief ascription will create many of the fundamental difficulties for translation that writers have frequently spoken about. trying to restate those beliefs using the intentional terminology of the translator’s home language involves self-reference in a way that often inevitably distorts things. The basic idea is the quite – 45 – . is a much more difficult epistemological task than is commonly appreciated.1 Ascribing beliefs to someone. I will attempt to systematically explain the fundamental reasons why translation is such a difficult endeavor.–2– Translation and Belief Ascription: Fundamental Barriers Todd Jones Introduction Translation is hard. Many scholars have written about how much is lost in the process of translating one language to another. I will argue that the root causes of the difficulties with translation have to do with problems intrinsic to intentional characterization. Anyone who’s ever tried to converse beyond asking for directions in a language other than one’s own is well aware of this. I will also argue that.

) In discussing belief ascription. and using knowledge of those conditions. according to certain general regular patterns or laws. Epistemological Barriers in Uncovering Beliefs Let me begin by saying why the task of uncovering beliefs is often an inherently difficult one. Showing that a person was exposed to a certain natural or social environment is taken as evidence of his or her having the typical resulting belief. One method might be termed “the environmental strategy. then the difficulties inherent in both figuring out what people believe and in saying what they believe are going to cause many of the fundamental difficulties in translation that so many commentators have noted. For some time. There are two general methods of gathering evidence and using theories to make this sort of inference. One of the main ways is to try to infer what an unseen entity must be like by deriving information about it from our current theories of what the world is like under certain conditions. the environmental strategy begins with the idea that certain beliefs result from exposure to certain perceptual/environmental situations.” Here one starts by observing external conditions that are thought to cause certain unseen states of affairs to result. someone using the environmental strategy will view the presence of an attacking dog as evidence that the person being attacked believes him. (I will discuss why the task of uncovering alien beliefs during translation is especially difficult in due course.Todd Jones simple one that the task of understanding the assertions someone makes in an unknown tongue centers around figuring out what the speaker believes and wants others to believe when he or she makes those utterances. which might be termed “the behavioral strategy. (So. (1990: 34) In what follows I will not argue the merits of this conceptualization of translation. What I will argue is that if this is explicitly or implicitly the theory of translation that one is working with (and I believe it often is).) The other method. Writes philosopher and cognitive scientist Stephen Stich: In light of the strong parallelism between the project of translating a speaker’s sincere assertions and the project of interpreting or intentionally characterizing his mental sentences [his beliefs] it should come as no surprise that the principles governing and constraining translation will be mirrored by principles governing and constraining intentional interpretation. In the case of belief ascription. there have been several methods for justifying claims about the unobservable.or herself to be under attack by a dog. one needs to start by recognizing that the task of describing unobservable states of mind in others is just one instance of the very common and general problem of trying to uncover information about entities we can’t directly observe.” – 46 – .

Thus. there exists not merely a few dozen or even a few thousand different possible beliefs and desires – but an infinite number of them. then.Translation and Belief Ascription starts with the assumption that only certain sorts of things can cause certain resulting actions. then observing that prediction doesn’t give you any evidence that the hypothesis in question.” It is a point of elementary logic. (So. seeing a man run. One of the main ways in which a person learning to translate an unfamiliar tongue proceeds is to assume that certain verbal outbursts and certain accompanying behavior would only be produced if certain sets of beliefs and desires were in place. according to our theories. So when those resulting behaviors are observed. by selecting from an unlimited number of – 47 – . use a combination of environmental and behavioral strategies. rather than its equally well-predicting rivals. In our everyday lives. This inferred-from-behavior belief ascription is the basis for the initial hypothesis that “jhar suru garchu” should be translated as something like “rain’s coming. Behavioral Strategies: The Problem of Alternative Hypotheses Ascribing beliefs based on behavioral evidence begins with the idea that having certain beliefs tends to cause certain behaviors. is taken as evidence that the man believes something is chasing him. along with various sorts of theories about the given domain. One of the root difficulties of belief ascription is that. because we think that choosing vanilla over chocolate is caused by believing that vanilla is tastier.) Whether they ever explicitly discuss it or not. In the cases we are discussing. to help come to the conclusions that they do. causing such behaviors to occur. while continuing to look behind him with a frightened expression on his face. like most scholars examining unseen entities.” looking upward and scrambling for shelter or a makeshift umbrella believed that it was about to rain. people-watchers of various stripes. is true. an anthropologist might reasonably assume that a Nepali shouting “jhar suru garchu. we would typically infer that a friend believes that vanilla ice cream is tastier than chocolate when he or she chooses vanilla at the ice-cream stand. however. We must begin. observing certain resulting behaviors (including verbal utterances) is taken to be evidence that certain internal beliefs must be there. If different beliefs and desires could have led to the same behavior. unlike the sparse fundamental building blocks of some other sciences. that merely showing that one can confirm a prediction entailed by a hypothesis isn’t enough to show that hypothesis is true. then observing that behavior provides no evidence for the existence of any particular beliefs or desires. If there are plenty of viable alternative hypotheses that could generate the observed prediction. that’s taken to be good evidence that those purported hidden causes are in fact there.

however. Because he desired stronger ties with friends and relatives in the next village. Not knowing which of a number of different possible beliefs underlies the production of certain gestures and verbal utterances makes translation risky as well. makes strategies of inferring beliefs on the basis of such observations inherently risky. She thought that this belief accounted for his lack of betrothal to Manita and his traveling to other villages to pursue other women. thus. Because he believed Manita would show more interest in marrying him.Todd Jones potential belief posits. then. When the Trobrianders initially pointed to an outrigger canoe.” Malinowski (1922) initially had no firm way of telling whether they were thinking “there’s a boat. for example. however. if he showed he could not be taken for granted. and said “Kewo’u. Because he believed Manita had become attracted to another man and he wanted revenge. This. Any given behavior is. Because he believed that the women in the next village would find him more exotic and interesting than Manita would . . of course. Because he had become attracted to a woman in the next village.” “there’s a group of undetached boat parts. The beliefs we can reasonably ascribe using a behavioral strategy are. While those engaged in qualitative research seldom explicitly acknowledge the problems discussed above. We can think of beliefs as something like maps used for getting around the world. consistent with positing numerous different core beliefs and desires.”2 The fact that an inordinate number of different sets of beliefs and desires can all generate the same behavior is the central reason for the precariousness of belief ascription using the behavioral strategy alone. It is also possible. A central problem is that many different sorts of maps could usefully lead you to the same destination. 5. is a fairly weak restriction. etc.” or “there’s a stage in a boat’s existence. . that he sought women in other villages: 1. only those that could possibly cause the behavior we observe. 2. Because he desired children and believed Manita couldn’t have any. The number of different belief and desire sets that can be alternatively responsible for the same behaviors. Margaret Mead (1928) once attributed to a particular Samoan chief the belief that his beautiful lover Manita was far too haughty and aggressive to be a proper wife. This chief’s desire for a less proud and arrogant wife than Manita might indeed have led him to other villages. 6. Because he believed that he was not really good enough for Manita. Finding that the chief actually ended up taking a more docile lover in the next village would confirm each of these other hypotheses just as much as it confirms Mead’s “left in search of a more docile wife” ascription. most researchers are keenly aware that claims they – 48 – . 4. 3. 7.

3 Environmental Strategies The basic idea behind environmental strategies is that exposure to certain natural and social environments tends to cause people to form certain beliefs. however. for example. But the officers could form this belief only if they also knew what an American Indian was and which features were Indian rather than Chicano or Chinese. A translator is similarly aided in his ascription of the belief that rain is coming to the native who utters.” and his consequent translation of this as “rain’s coming” by seeing that the native is looking at storm clouds. What most of such methods boil down to. however.Translation and Belief Ascription make about people’s internal states are more problematic than claims they make about directly observable behavior. it is the case that which beliefs will be formed in a given environment also depends on which other beliefs someone holds at the time. “jhar suru garchu. helping to cause the behavior. During his study of police patrols. is an attempt to enhance behavioral strategies by increasing the number of behavioral observations made. 1980. It must be noted. But it is easy to see how environmental strategies can be bedeviled by problems of knowing about the presence and absence of surrounding beliefs. Pepinsky was certainly in a position to see what the officers saw. we use the information that people have been exposed to certain environments to infer that they now hold certain beliefs. that such attempts do not enable one to get around the fundamental epistemological limitations of the behavioral strategy. then. Carpenter et al. Many techniques. and they may well have had this belief. Cahill 1987). They would only come to such a belief if they didn’t also have the belief that other locals were fond of dressing up as Indians or if they were too nearsighted to take in ethnic identities at a glance. Pepinsky (1980) claimed that the officers he was working with once singled out a car to pull over because they believed that the driver was an American Indian. Whether one is talking about one observed behavior or ten. Increasing the amount of observed behaviors of various sorts is certainly something to be applauded and. Just as determining which beliefs cause a behavior depends on making assumptions about which other auxiliary beliefs are present. for example. – 49 – . take on many different roles and observe people in numerous different settings in order to see behavior in a wide realm of situations (Agar 1980. no doubt. When we use such strategies. are employed by practicing ethnographers who use behavioral strategies in their work. the same problems of plausible alternatives will still be present. greatly increases the accuracy of our belief ascriptions by enabling us to eliminate conjectures that are inconsistent with these further observations. One can. and despite the variety of behaviors observed. in hopes of increasing the likelihood that the beliefs they ascribe are more than idle speculation.

Trying to translate alien speech by looking to the surrounding environment to enable you to discover which beliefs lie behind the verbal utterances has the same problems. which prevents us from positing various and sundry logically possible belief-desire combinations (see Hollis 1982). At the same time. given the fundamental limits we’ve been discussing? And if there are steps we take in our everyday lives to achieve this success. in other words. and we can begin to infer what the unknown beliefs in question must be. surely translators could also use such methods to make successful ascriptions to their subjects. In our everyday lives there do seem to be some ways of getting an initial bridgehead of beliefs whose existence we can be confident about. to start out assuming that a “bridgehead” of beliefs is there. When we walk down a city street on a busy afternoon. we typically ascribe dozens of beliefs and desires to the people around us. then we know some of the particular conditions existing which interact with general patterns of belief formation and behavior production. The “Makeshift” Solution – Using One’s Self Ascribing beliefs to others on the basis of their behavior or environmental exposure is fraught with fundamental epistemological difficulties. however. With such assumptions about which auxiliary beliefs are present lacking firm support. The worry is that one can either regress infinitely. then there is a much smaller possibility space of what other beliefs must be present to produce some set of behaviors. providing a “makeshift” solution to the problems described above. We need. or as the result of certain environmental conditions. or we would never be able to coordinate our activities with others. our inferences about what beliefs must result from environmental circumstances will correspondingly lack firm support. These difficulties are especially notable when we are dealing with alien cultures. belief ascription is one of our most ubiquitous human activities. There is a “makeshift” solution that people-watchers can use to try to overcome the problems described above. How are we able to have so much success in navigating the social world.Todd Jones To be able to ascribe a belief to a person on the basis of his environment. To know what these other beliefs are. but all the same problems exist for ascribing beliefs within a culture. or one can circularly recruit some of the original proposed beliefs that these other auxiliaries were themselves supposed to help justify. we must assume the presence of still other particular auxiliary beliefs that help to form the auxiliaries in question. we need to know what other surrounding auxiliary beliefs are also present. If we can safely assume the existence of this bridgehead of neighboring beliefs. proposing auxiliaries without any real evidential support. Surely we must be successful in our endeavors a good deal of the time. – 50 – . If we start out knowing that a certain set of beliefs and desires must be there.

is through the use of analogy. and the simulation is a realistic one. Whatever the details of how we go about actually ascribing beliefs to others. both inside and outside our culture. gets us into trouble. Other philosophers and psychologists have proposed that in ascribing beliefs to others we do make use of vague theories about how minds work. we know what they are likely to believe and desire in particular circumstances. and about the types of beliefs and desires people tend to have. to tell us what primary beliefs are there. instead of using our observations of others to try to justify the positing of auxiliary beliefs one by one. besides knowing theories and conditions. If we can assume that others. When using such theories to ascribe beliefs to others. then even without knowing much about perceptual mechanisms or about others’ surrounding beliefs. this provides a pretty good indication that these thoughts are what appear in their minds in such situations (see Gordon 1986. however. We may not be able to see inside other people’s heads – but we actually can see inside the heads of people who seem to be very much like them: ourselves. it is clear that if others really are like us. or about the various primary and surrounding beliefs and desires they hold. We could infer what others’ beliefs and desires are like by using analogy in several ways.Translation and Belief Ascription The behavioral and environmental strategy are ways of trying to infer the existence of unobservable factors using some (at least rough) theories of belief formation and behavioral production and lots of observations. are generally assumed to be the same ones that we would form in these circumstances (see Stich and Nichols 1997). We do not need to establish all of these with the intensive unending empirical investigations – 51 – . we tend to make a blanket default assumption that the relevant surrounding interacting beliefs held by others in a given situation are similar to those that we have – unless there are specific reasons to believe otherwise. One proposal found in the belief-ascription literature is that we attribute beliefs by performing a kind of simulation. Which beliefs others will form on the basis of certain environmental exposure and certain previously held beliefs. What they are trying to communicate when they speak is likely to be the same things we believe and would try to communicate. They believe the same things we would be believing in those circumstances. then. think a lot like we do. Ascribing beliefs in this way requires very little prior knowledge about how people’s minds work. If others’ minds indeed work like ours do. Goldman 1989. we can use ourselves as models both of what prior beliefs exist and which beliefs get formed in certain circumstances.) But an additional way that scientists and lay people alike typically try to understand the nature of unobserved factors. (Our lack of knowledge about the particular conditions – other beliefs – that we need to conjoin with these theories. All one has to do to see what they believe is to physically put oneself in their position – or imagine oneself in the other’s position – and then check to see what beliefs and desires pop into one’s own mind. Davies and Stone 1995).

People interested in ascribing beliefs to exotic peoples and translating their utterances can also be thrown off the track by a lack of familiarity with the local conventions about when it is permissible to make assertions using non-literal metaphorical language.” writes anthropologist Roger Keesing. Heine writes. and that others are often indeed a lot like us. Similarly. It is likely that one of the main reasons we are as successful as we are at belief ascription is that we do use ourselves as models. it is quite permissible for us to talk using words that seem to imply we believe that luck is a person determining the outcome of games of chance (Keesing 1985) or that we make decisions with our stomachs (see also Lakoff and Johnson 1980). In exotic cases. however. for example. however. – 52 – . is that less familiarity with the linguistic conventions and the surrounding beliefs gives them more difficulty with inferring what the underlying beliefs really are when they hear such possibly metaphorical phrases. We can’t assume we can uncover the beliefs of exotic people just by imagining what we would believe were we in their shoes. None of Captain Cook’s men. a tribe now well known to the world through the ethnographic writings of Colin Turnbull. A worry for translators.” Such nightmarish inaccurate attributions do not seem to be uncommon. a vast knowledge of the native belief system is often needed to know what natives believe.Todd Jones required by the behavioral and environmental strategies. Self-knowledge and simulation are not enough. even in what seems like very straightforward perceptual situations. Problems for Using the “Makeshift” Solution in Exotic Translation Cases A central problem for the kind of belief ascription a translator needs to do. is that often the people whose language we want to translate hold beliefs that are quite different from our own. “The danger of our constructing nonexistent metaphysical schemes that seem to be implied by conventional metaphors but would be meaningless or absurd to native speakers if they could read what we write about them raises ethnographic nightmares for me. “We have no reason to assume either that other peoples’ schemes of conventional metaphor are more deeply expressive of cosmological schemes than our own or that their ‘cultural models’ are more uniform than ours. an anthropologist could not tell how Western airplanes were perceived by Melanesian “cargo cultists” just by looking up at the planes and introspecting. Our familiarity with this convention means that none of our compatriots takes this verbal behavior to signal an underlying belief that chance or decision-making works this way. or that Captain Cook was believed to be the god Lono. were in any position to know by introspection that the Hawaiian natives saw their ship as carrying a forest. for example. In everyday English. The linguist Heine for example restudied the Ik.

. if what makes some mental state the belief that p is partly a function – 53 – . will certainly enhance knowledge of linguistic-behavior conventions and perhaps allow one to “think more like a native” oneself. he or she has only elevated him. then. But no matter how fully nativized an ethnographer may become through participant observation. and more participation in the exotic culture. . is often far less helpful for uncovering beliefs in alien cultures.” That gor is able to fly to the stars where the abang live is. . or the likely source of behavior.” as Turnbull (1974: 153.” then. Once the beliefs underlying a speaker’s utterances have been understood. Problems in Communicating Exotic Beliefs Difficult as it is to correctly ascribe beliefs to exotic peoples. and on to the stars where the abang have their eternal existence” (Turnbull 1974: 161). because these relationships define the belief. and thinks and talks just like the natives do. 167) claims. such a belief does not count as the belief that p. while making it easier to ascribe beliefs in one’s own culture. And even if the ethnographer somehow manages to become completely nativized. Most contemporary philosophers assume a “functional role” theory of what gives a belief (at least part of) its content. the problems are less epistemological than metaphysical. even if he or she could somehow overcome these problems. We are further informed that “A soul is round and red but it has no arms or legs. a potential translator’s troubles would not be over. Stephen Stich argues that a consequence of this view is that when the surrounding network of beliefs that a mental state interacts with is very different from that of the mental state we typically call “the belief that p. What makes a particular mental state the belief that p. which “flies past the moon that is good and the sun that is bad. On the communication end. Similarly.Translation and Belief Ascription We are told . a translator also has the task of communicating what these speech-generating beliefs are. that there is gor. (Heine 1985). is the way in which that belief interacts with the rest of a person’s beliefs and with perception and behavior. the soul. . It rests somewhere in the vicinity of the stomach .” “soul. This is hardly surprising since gor (more precisely gur) is the Ik word for heart which is occasionally used to mean “spirit. This task of trying to communicate by giving intentional characterizations of the native beliefs also leads to fundamental problems. a strange idea to the Ik. The exacerbation of the belief-ascription problems stemming from the unfamiliarity of other cultures can certainly be lessened the more experience one has with the exotic culture. The word abang means “my father” and in no way refers to “ancestors” or “ancestral spirits. he or she is likely to always make errors due to interference from old ingrained western ideas about the significance of some external item.or herself to the same unsure ground that people are on in ascribing beliefs to people in one’s own culture.” (Turnbull 1974: 161). Self-introspection. however. More observation.

we must be able to determine whether eating chocolate ice cream is the object of one of his desires. . .” Indeed. we find that they are quite bizarre. and if it does not interact with other mental states in a way similar to the way mine would. asserting: – 54 – . . John and Mary are homosexuals. essentially. we must be able to identify certain of his beliefs as conditionals and others as disjunctions. we must be able to say that certain of his beliefs are (or are not) about elephants. Similarly. If a subject’s mental state does not interact with other mental states in a pattern which approximates the pattern exhibited by our own conditional beliefs. writes Stich. Stich argues that if a person’s beliefs interact with each other and with external stimuli in ways different from the ways our beliefs interact with each other. we cannot clearly say what those beliefs are. . if a subject’s mental state is not caused by stimuli similar to the ones which lead me to believe there is an elephant in front of me. then it does not count as a belief that there is an elephant in front of him. for he claims that the quite normally endowed male and female couple. and the pattern of causal interactions with each other and with stimuli are reasonably similar to our own . Consider the case of someone whose beliefs in a given realm interact with each other differently and cause different inferences than the mental states we usually term “the belief that p” and “the belief that q” do in our culture. When we ask about John’s beliefs about sexuality. If we want to have an intentional characterization of a subject’s mental states. however. then these differences make alien mental states.” The central problem for describing the beliefs of exotic people is that if they have beliefs surrounded by networks of other beliefs that are very different from ours. for any English characterization implicitly claims that the belief characterized this way is linked to a particular set of other beliefs in the ways that these beliefs are typically linked in our culture – linkages that may well not be there in the alien culture. None of this is possible.Todd Jones of how a belief interacts with other beliefs in the process of inference. Stich asks us to consider the case of John who is told he has latent homosexual tendencies and who accepts this diagnosis. unless the subject’s beliefs and desires. . no English characterization will suffice. (1990: 47) Our intuitions that the contents of a truly alien belief state cannot be characterized by an English sentence are particularly strong when we consider other types of case in which the network of beliefs that a particular mental state interacts with (what Stich calls the doxastic surround) is different from the network of beliefs surrounding our mental states. or if their beliefs dynamically interact with each other in ways different than our beliefs do. different sorts of belief states than ones we’d characterize with the English phrase “the belief that p. however. it does not count as a conditional belief. then a belief existing in a cognitive economy that produced very different inferences than our beliefs would should also be unable to be characterized as “the belief that p.

. When people use the belief labels associated with a particular doxastic surround in our culture to characterize the mental states of an alien person. Any English sentences we’d use to attribute particular beliefs to them would lead our compatriots to think that the natives have mental states surrounded by the kind of belief networks that surround our mental states characterized by such sentences.Translation and Belief Ascription What sex a person is is not a function of anatomy. Yet if we tried to attribute a belief using any other of our content-sentences. (1983: 138–9) If Stich’s claims about these cases are correct. Of course. With a different doxastic surround. we would still have the same problem. What is it that John believes when he says “I have latent homosexual tendencies?” Writes Stich. that it is just not clear whether or not his belief counts as the belief that he has latent homosexual tendencies. when the question is raised without some specific context in mind. the mental states in question here is likely to function very differently than the mental state that we expect to be there on the basis of that English characterization. Even with a less exotic claim like “Cohen believed he was owed five times the value of the merchandise stolen from him by the robbers’ tribe” (Geertz 1973: 8). there is clearly a problem for anthropologists and other translators when they try to make claims about the beliefs and utterances of exotic peoples with very different beliefs or thinking patterns from ours. there is simply no saying. These properties are often correlated with anatomical differences. despite their anatomy. we are surely dealing with ideas that have a doxastic surround that is unlike the network of assumptions surrounding our own beliefs. Nor is there any other content sentence available in our language which folk intuition would clearly find appropriate in this case. but that some but not all Azande are witches (Evans-Prichard 1937: 24)? What do the Nuer believe when they make a claim that we try to translate as “twins are birds” (EvansPrichard 1956)? What do the Bororo believe when they make a claim translated as “we are red Macaws” (Lévy-Bruhl 1926)? Surely. they are prevented from – 55 – . so no children will result from their sexual relations. Maleness and femaleness are basic irreducible properties of people. . homosexual acts never result in pregnancy. For the concept of “owing” and the related concept of “compensation” will be linked to beliefs in the alien culture that are different in our belief-networks. but sometimes they are not . they are both female. The doxastic surround of [his] belief – his theory of sexuality – is sufficiently different from the doxastic surround of the belief that we might express with the same sentence. in these cases we are dealing with beliefs with a doxastic surround that is radically different from the doxastic environment of any of our beliefs. and that every relative of a witch is also a witch. I know John and Mary quite well and I am convinced that. How are we to characterize the precise contents of the beliefs of Azande tribesmen who make statements that we translate as saying that all the Azande are related.

Many of these areas would suffer from the same problems described above if they tried to describe mental states using English-language belief-content sentences. including the sex act itself.Todd Jones accurately conceptualizing this native belief in terms of the doxastic surround typically assumed to be there by those in the native culture. Psychologists often investigate the mental lives of very young children. One Way of Resolving these Problems Let us take stock. There are many areas of study that are interested in uncovering and describing the mental states responsible for behavior. Relying on these models may work well enough when we are talking about people like ourselves whose minds really do work according to the way the model says they should. If translating the statements of exotic people involves uncovering and communicating their beliefs. of psychotics. and assuming that they can describe the beliefs of others by identifying them with mental states from this familiar model. I have argued that there are serious difficulties inherent in the ways we usually try to do both. and of monkeys or rats. Translators typically try to uncover unknown beliefs by gathering information on behavior and environment. how can we hope to be able to say clearly what Tibetans believe about lamas having sex when they say that “all the details of the affair. Very few disciplines are concerned to uncover only generalizations about the mental lives of people like ourselves. To understand others’ beliefs. The problems seem to stem from the same source. phantom activities of a phantom body in which the true body is not involved” (Ekvall 1964: 70). using our minds as models. are an illusion. If we don’t really know how to characterize the beliefs of the person from our own culture with odd beliefs about sexuality. we must be able to uncover and communicate their beliefs. All of the same problems of belief ascription should surely pop up in these cases as well as among the Yanamamo. we seem to rely on a rough particularistic model/theory of what beliefs are there and how they function: they work pretty much like they do in our own cases. and figuring out what unknown “missing variable” beliefs must be there. Functional Role Descriptions of Mental States It is important to note that the problems described above should not be thought of as unique to anthropology or translation studies. Translators communicate information about others’ beliefs to a target audience by assuming that the members of this audience possess a certain model of which mental states do what (based on themselves). The same is true for artificial-intelligence researchers – 56 – . These theories/models won’t work for uncovering or describing mental states when the states in question do not function like ours.

Describing someone’s thinking. mental states are individuated on the basis of how these states interact with surrounding mental states. however. one needn’t rely on English language content characterizations to identify which mental states are which. is unimportant for describing how thinking works. When mental states are individuated in this manner. Robert Cummins (1983). the great advantage of describing mental states using cognitive science’s computational vocabulary is that this allows us to more efficiently describe peoples’ thought processes by “eliminating the middleman. The computational paradigm assumes that the brain is one such physical machine that instantiates complex formal systems. Such states can thus be identified by the relations they have with the other states in the formal system that they instantiate. the computational paradigm is committed to the view that what determines the nature of any particular mental state is the way that these states are positioned to interact with the other mental states within the cognitive system. A physical computer is a machine configured in a way such that certain physical states are set up to combine with and produce other states in ways that mirror the specified relations and sequences in the abstract formal system it is instantiating. In Stich’s view. Knowing the exact physical makeup of the neurological states involved in the computation.Translation and Belief Ascription investigating how to get machines to think and understand. and Hartry Field (1977). they have the potential to cause havoc in various disciplines investigating the mind. In much of cognitive psychology. like – 57 – . A computer is a physical instantiation of a formal system.” Stich. Are there ways that such disciplines have managed to avoid these problems. in terms of each state’s role in a cognitive economy. In the view of philosophers like Stich. Much of contemporary cognitive psychology subscribes to what is known as the computational paradigm. is analogous to describing the way a mechanical computer program interacts with and transforms various data structure items in response to inputs. In a formal system there are syntactic rules specifying the ways in which some tokens can combine with other tokens to produce certain resulting “legal” token sequences. with inputs and with outputs. ways that those interested in translation should pay attention to? Let us look first at the issue of communicating and describing exotic mental states. The central assumption of the computational paradigm is that the mind is a kind of computer. It seems to me that contemporary cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline that has come to be structured in a manner that enables the kinds of problem described above to be bypassed. While the problems discussed above should manifest themselves most severely in certain types of cultural anthropology. so long as the neurological states involved interact with other neurological states in ways that mirror the syntactic rules of the formal system that the computing brain is supposed to be instantiating. The various “data structure items” or “tokens” that the brain computes with are neurological states. Ned Block (1980). in this approach.

will lead people to think they do interact with surrounding states the way our beliefs do. this type of characterization. And this eliminates the central problem of [intentional ascription]. (1983: 158) A functional-role computational description. specifying the numerous causal connections this mental state has to other states (and to input and behavior). With a computational description like this. Giving it this label enables us to tell what kind of state it is and what connections it has with other states in one fell swoop. We can do this instead of having to say “Majid believes that p” which leads others to assume that Majid is in a mental state that really interacts with the particular surrounding belief network in the way that the hearer’s “belief that p” does. however. Instead. Giving these alien mental states English characterizations. we don’t do it in a long-winded manner. in other words. using methods discussed below). What we think of as the content of a belief is determined. as – 58 – . as we have seen. It is that state that interacts with other states in the same way that the state which causes me to assert p interacts with its neighbors. becomes very problematic when we use it to describe the thinking of people different from ourselves. by the way that this mental state interacts with other surrounding mental states. With the computational paradigm. however. While characterizing a mental state this way enables us to understand lots about its connections with other mental states quickly. in part. Stich writes. since there is no risk of generalizations being lost when subjects are so different from us that folk psychology is at a loss to describe them. gives us a fine-grained and flexible way of describing the dynamics of other peoples’ mental states.Todd Jones Quine (1960) believes that when we characterize a belief by giving it the label “the belief that p. we are able to characterize the cognitive state of a subject in terms appropriate to the subject rather than in terms that force a comparison between the subject and ourselves. When we want to identify which belief we are talking about. But we can avoid giving people such misleading characterizations of alien mental states if we eliminate the “middleman move” in which we specify the connections by comparing these states to our own states and the connections they have. Instead.” we are saying that the person the belief is being attributed to is in a mental state similar to the one I would be in were I to sincerely assert p (Stich 1990: 48). the computational paradigm lets us identify mental states by directly specifying these states’ roles in the native cognitive economy (once we uncover what that is. The problem is that the mental states of exotic people may well not have the kind of doxastic surround that our beliefs which we label “the belief that p” have. we characterize such states in a relatively quick and dirty way by labeling them as being states that are similar to the internal states that lead us to sincerely assert p. we can directly say things like “then Majid will go into mental state y” where y has been defined in terms of its actual doxastic surround and its role in inference producing. They may also not interact with each other to produce the same inferences.

Navy film because of the fago she feels for them. in that realm. Lutz appears to do a credible job telling us how the Ifaluk think about emotions. behavior. The computational paradigm. whose causal relations with other mental states are pre-specified as having the connections with the specific doxastic surrounding states of our cognitive economy. for example. by characterizing Ifaluk mental states more directly through functional-role descriptions. By directly describing mental states in terms of their relations to perceptual inputs. I believe that the way she is able to do this. A good example of the similarity between anthropological approaches to belief ascription and the kind of functional-role approach used in cognitive psychology can be seen in Catherine Lutz’s works on emotion terms used among the Ifaluk people of Micronesia. Instead. she talks about Ifaluk thinking by beginning with the terms that the natives use for conceptualizing what is going on in a given realm. is structured in a way that enables researchers to avoid the problems associated with characterizing mental states with ordinary intentional descriptions.S. despite intentionalascription difficulties. there is no way we can characterize Ifaluk thinking by saying “the Ifaluk believe p. seeks to directly identify a mental state in terms of how it interacts with perception. and the behaviors it tends to cause. we can avoid using a vocabulary that forces all cognitive agents to be described as if they think like us or that is unable to describe their mental life at all. Functional-Role Strategies in Anthropology It seems to me that anthropologists often manage to avoid the types of intentionalascription problem discussed by philosophers by using a strategy that is substantively similar to cognitive psychology’s functional-role approach. Nevertheless. instead. the other mental states it tends to lead to. then. recall. is by avoiding “middleman” intentional ascriptions based on comparison to our own supposedly similar mental states and. These native terms are then explicated by carefully describing the typical perceptual situations that lead to this state. Lutz claims that Ifaluk thinking in a certain realm differs drastically from the way we think about this realm in the West and seeks to describe these differences. She – 59 – . however. Numerous philosophers. and other mental states. Lutz explicitly avoids using direct English translations to describe how the Ifaluk are thinking. behavioral outputs and other mental states.” The holistic network of thoughts we assume to be there interacting with the type of mental state we label “the belief that p” will not be the network in Ifaluk minds. would claim that if the Ifaluk really think quite differently from us. This strategy.Translation and Belief Ascription opposed to the coarse-grained intentional descriptions.4 Like many anthropologists. So what we might be tempted to term “the belief that p” among the Ifaluk isn’t really the same kind of mental state as the one we call “belief that p” among ourselves at all. Lutz. tells us of an Ifaluk woman who doesn’t want to look at the people she sees in a U.

Indeed. But calmness among the Ifaluk. Lutz also reports on an Ifaluk man criticizing his brother’s persistent drinking by saying “you do not fago my thoughts” (1985: 120). love. and sadness). is something like anger. avoiding scaring or offending others. We slowly build up a sense of when Ifaluk people will and won’t see someone as feeling fago. Calmness is not something that stems at all from inner confidence. A maluwelu person is one a Westerner might think of as calm. is one that the Ifaluk call ker. Drunk Ifaluk sometimes say they fago themselves. Ifaluk men are said to feel fago for their drunken compatriots. Lutz discusses. and 2) to name Englishlanguage terms that we should specifically avoid thinking of the Ifaluk concept (e. for they see it as invariably leading to raucous misbehavior. for unlike our notion of timid or fearful. it is not done as a translation of Ifaluk thinking but instead serves 1) to quickly get us into the general ball-park ‘genus’ functional role that this concept is playing. by preventing them from becoming ker. One must keep children in line. for example. though. The Ifaluk will regularly tell each other stories in which they freely and shamelessly admit how metagu they were in certain situations. the term maluwelu is closely related to the Ifaluk term metagu – which means something like afraid or anxious. we should not think of metagu as really being what we mean by fearful. Being metagu is seen as a state that prevents one from being offensive and boastful. When English terminology is introduced. however. Song. The notion of misbehavior. A ker state is something like happiness or excitement. when an Ifaluk woman may think that another woman is maluwelu. Ifaluk thinking and terminology is instead explicated by describing how these ideas function in Ifaluk conceptualizations of their social worlds. Lutz tells us. A calm maluwelu person is gentle. for example. timid and shy. What is a bad state to be in. Lutz writes. the metagu state is regarded by the Ifaluk as a highly desirable state that it is not bad to be in. but rather more from inner fearfulness. as when fago is described in terms of an amalgam of what we would call compassion. By giving us a series of rich contextualized examples. however.Todd Jones goes on to talk of fighting brothers being separated and asked why they aren’t showing fago for each other. “is both tolerated and even positively sanctioned if it derives from the timidity associated with being calm” (1987: 112). However. Lutz tells us. itself. however. – 60 – . is not really what we mean by “calmness” in the West. Lutz slowly and carefully makes clear just how the Ifaluk are conceptualizing each others’ emotions and behaviors when they speak of them using the term of fago. but it includes an emphasis on moral condemnation directed at social taboo-breaking that is lacking in Western notions of anger. is one that must be explicated carefully in terms of its place in the network of Ifaluk ideas and not just translated into a Western counterpart. Lutz tells us. The Ifaluk do not think of this as we think of happiness. Disobedience among children.g. One does this by showing them that you are song about their behavior. and how the fago concept interacts with other central Ifaluk ideas.

imaginatively describes this process of making the native term clear where the point is not to substitute our familiar terms for native unfamiliar ones. – 61 – . Michael Silverstein describes how it is highly commonplace for anthropologists to deal with “untranslatable” by doing just what Lutz does – using the native term and giving long ethnographic descriptions of the context of use for this term. etc. is essentially the functional-role strategy. avoiding the philosophical intentional-ascription problems in roughly the same manner. I believe that this approach to translation is certainly superior to one that seeks to find English equivalents for native terms. Ifaluk thinking about maluwelu persons is described here by characterizing how it is that such thoughts interact with other thoughts (and behavior. Below. in part. This is just the way mental states are characterized in cognitive psychology. This “thick description” approach to translation. by showing how vast numbers of other Ifaluk notions are bound up in their use. As in cognitive psychology. maluwelu and other Ifaluk notions are explicated by Lutz. but to teach us anew the polysemic senses of the native terms in a manner analogous to the way in which priests are expected to make sense of exotic doctrines to their flocks. Benson Saler. In his Chapter 3 contribution to this volume. She also describes the types of behavior the Ifaluk would engage in toward someone that they thought of as maluwelu. (They also point out that Malinowski often did not practice what he preached). and tradition of that community “ (1923: 300). Malinowski himself wrote of words that can only be translated “not by giving their imaginary equivalent – a real one obviously cannot be found – but by explaining the meaning of each of them through an exact Ethnographic account of the sociology. has a long history in anthropology. of course. which directly characterizes mental states in terms of their place in a detailed holistic causal network. in his Chapter 8 of this volume.Translation and Belief Ascription Here. I describe another “functionalist” approach that I believe could work even better.). The ideas underlying Ifaluk utterances are thus described more accurately. Her “translations” are not done by describing the ideas and mental states underlying Ifaluk utterances using English belief sentences. Making Anthropological Functional Role More Precise In the last section I discussed the heretofore unnoticed similarities between certain approaches in anthropology and functional-role approaches in cognitive psychology. The meaning of a term like maluwelu is further explicated by Lutz describing numerous types of perceptual situation in which someone would be labeled maluwelu or not labeled maluwelu. are avoided. Lutz’s anthropological approach. in which a mental state is named according to its supposed similarity with one of our labeled mental states. culture. As Rosman and Rubel point out in Chapter 11 of this volume. “middleman” intentional descriptions.

Todd Jones However. They would be able to make such claims. cognitive psychologists usually specify fairly precise theories. By incorporating precise models of mental structures into their work. while some anthropologists are very interested in which kinds of inference and association are produced at what times as we have seen. created by plugging particularistic information about native knowledge into general models of human cognition. for example. An anthropologist such as Geertz. One of the chief differences is the level of precision sought in describing and modeling peoples’ mental activities. but also by using a knowledge of what general types of mentally associated item tend to be activated in a mental economy at what times. In my own work. By contrast. is interested in which ideas typically interact with what other items in the belief networks of members of a particular culture. Colby 1985). often implementable as a computer program. most give little thought to the kinds of mechanism needed to enact these kinds of mental-state linkage. The benefits of moving in the direction of more detailed and precise models of the native thinking would not likely be all one-sided. growing up in the environments they do. This provides an account for why certain ideas and actions stereotypically occur as they do in Tibetan culture. but he shows little interest in examining the details of the kind of architecture needed to enable these mental states to interact with one another in particular ways. In making a claim that a person will tend to go into a certain mental state in certain circumstances. about the kinds of mental structure that have to be in place in order to produce such inferences (see for example Anderson 1983. I have looked at how universal cognitive constraints (as described by Anderson 1983) in the formation and retrieval of knowledge lead Tibetans. there are numerous differences in the research foci of the two approaches as well. not only by using their knowledge of which particular kinds of thing have come to be mentally associated with each other in that culture. I believe that “thick description” of this sort could be made more precise and more accurate if such anthropologists incorporated specific computational models into their functional-role descriptions of mental-state interconnections. to recurrently recount the same religious explanations for certain types of event (Jones 1987). Such anthropologists seem content with the idea that these mental states have some sort of associative connection where some thoughts somehow “call up” other thoughts. If anthropologists find that models of native thinking. functionalrole-oriented anthropologists would be able to greatly increase the plausibility of any claim that their subjects were likely to be in particular mental states at any given time. one should not overlook the fact that. This sort of work is already going on in what is sometimes called cognitive anthropology (see for example Hutchins 1980. currently. Cognitive psychologists have long been very interested in the particular mechanisms by which certain mental states are formed and certain inferences made. don’t work very well. they might easily suggest new models of human cognition that better explain the – 62 – . Wyer and Srull 1986).

Cognitive psychology would then derive some benefits from anthropology as well. This claim may seem surprising. Lutz’s work seems to explain what tends to happen in the mental lives of her subjects by giving complex descriptions of the contents of their mental states. If functional-role-oriented anthropological approaches were to develop in more precise ways which made them more akin to functional-role theories in cognitive psychology. on which of the various general formulations of cognitive functional-role theory was adopted. What it would look like would depend even more heavily. like many theories in cognitive science. The fat-syntax view of mental functioning. These new proposed models could then be tested with other populations. Stich describes the fat-syntax view this way: The basic idea . neurological characteristics or phenomenal “feel. is not the semantic content of that state but the way it syntactically interacts with other syntactic relationally-defined states. If this is right. however. . can be described in terms of the syntactic properties and relations of the abstract objects to which the cognitive states are mapped. What’s important in theories of cognition. On closer inspection.” Unlike many cognitive theories. the fat-syntax view of cognition is the most natural approach to adopt. More briefly. in this view. say.Translation and Belief Ascription thinking of the people studied. In my view. then it will be natural to view cognitive states as tokens of abstract syntactic objects. as well as causal links with stimuli and behavioral events. After all. semantic content plays little role in explaining native thinking using anthropological functional-role approaches. then. the idea is that causal relations among cognitive states mirror formal relations among syntactic objects. What makes it a “fat” syntax is that the state’s relations to stimuli and behavior are as essential to its characterization as its relation to other internal inference-producing states. I would claim that these anthropological descriptions of the mental are more easily seen as – 63 – . not what they are about. on this view. would depend on which models of the various proposed internal cognitive mechanisms would be used. the most natural approach for anthropologists interested in describing the mental states of exotic people to use is one that Stich terms the “fat syntax” view of cognition. however. the fat-syntax view holds that no attention needs to be paid to the semantic evaluation of mental states. holds that the defining criterion of being a particular mental state is based on the way in which that state interacts with other mental states. Indeed. is what mental states do. I believe this is illusory. What such a more precise functional-role-oriented anthropology would ultimately look like. of course. even their current vague form. (1983: 149) What characterizes a particular mental state. rather than by. . is that cognitive states whose interaction is (in part) responsible for behavior can be systematically mapped to abstract syntactic objects in such a way that causal interactions among cognitive states. and integrated with other new ideas about cognition.

views the mind as a sort of computer. Stich 1983. An anthropologist might describe how there is a mental state EFG. and inferential effects for each of these other internal states can also be specified). now. 5) will inferentially produce the mental state NOP. On most (non-connectionist) views of cognitive science. The computational paradigm. They would have to make use of ideas about the rules governing state-to-state transitions (the kinds of generalizations most cognitive psychologists spend most of their time trying to uncover). three central tasks of cognitive theories are: to describe a set of primitive symbols. if they have authority over them. stating which types of new resulting string sequence should be produced at which time (Fodor 1975. linguistics. Computer programs are a physical instantiation of a system of formal syntactic rules specifying the ways in which some token entities can combine with other tokens in order to produce certain resulting “legal” token combinations. the syntactic theory of mind’s most vocal critic. They also. if the people observed are close to 50 years old or over (typical other causal antecedents. we refer to this sort of thing as “saying what beliefs a person has.Todd Jones making use of a syntactic theory of the mind (albeit currently in a vague way) than are most other descriptions of mental functioning. 2) is sometime produced when drunken men are seen laughing and singing. have to be able to give some description of the particular sets of symbol strings that are causing other symbol strings to be produced in a rule-governed way. which makes them unlikely to leave the area where the event they’ve been observing is happening. during which small sounds can startle them immensely and has numerous effects on other dispositions. HIJ. and cognitive psychology] is really a kind of logical syntax (only psychologized)” (1978: 223). Imagine. 7) causes them to scold the ker people. Indeed. which: 1) is often produced when children are seen laughing and chasing each other. 4) usually causes them to go into go another internal state. even Jerry Fodor. and to specify state-to-state transition rules. – 64 – . however. to specify some formal rules stating the ways these primitives can be combined into more complex objects. In everyday English. Cummins 1983). which Ifaluk persons commonly go into. Because of a basis in the computational paradigm. recall. it is clear that most functionalrole theories of the mental (not just fat syntax) are largely centered around formal syntactic structuring. 6) causes them to say “those people have become ker” when asked. 3) generally leads a typical Ifaluk to go into another internal state KLM. once wrote that “What we’re doing [in AI.” Now it is easy to see how someone could give a syntactic characterization of particular combinations of internal symbol strings. that anthropologists began using sophisticated cognitive theories to explain what their subjects are likely to be thinking at certain times. behavioral effects.

While one might additionally give a description of the content of a mental state to quickly give readers a general heuristic ball-park picture of the mental states. While semantic-centered accounts of thinking seem to be unable to tell us how alien peoples are thinking in difficult cases. It is a state that. We can show how the state underlying the Nuer assertion is one that they enter when they say that twins are conceived in a special holy manner. you would have syntactic characterizations of such mental states. (Alternatively. are witches. because this would contradict their claim that not all the Azande. rather than burying them. in combination with other states.Translation and Belief Ascription If mental states were described this way by anthropologists. (something like “children of god/spirit”) – a term also used to describe the birds which freely fly through the sky/spirit realm. Take a sentence that initially seems to translate as the assertion by Nuer people that “a twin is not a person (ran). so that their souls can depart into the air where they belong. if we were to characterize that state merely by using the content sentence that seemed to fit it best. They would be described by specifying what they do. Mental states that result in. making them gaat kwoth.) With a syntactic account we don’t have to translate this state by giving some sort of equivalent sentence. output. rather than by giving a “meaning” or “content” using a substitutable English-language phrase. non-standard inferences are also straightforwardly describable using a fat-syntax approach. or result from. the semantics would not really be playing any part in the explanation of the thinking and behavior of the peoples described. We can’t comfortably ascribe to the Azande the belief that all relatives of a witch are also witches. he is a bird (dit)” (Evans-Prichard 1956: 129). and other mental state syntactically produce and are produced by this state. A semantic evaluation of this sentence is problematic because there is no sentence we can imagine ourselves sincerely uttering that would have the kind of doxastic inferential links to other beliefs that our utterance of that sentence would require in our language. who are all related to the witches among them. It is a mental state which can combine with a different state – one which we see has the function of prohibiting kin to harm other close kin – to produce an inferred mental state which underlies an assertion we translate as saying that twins should never eat birds’ eggs. Looking at it in terms of it’s entire doxastic surround (which is far richer then merely calling it a “metaphorical belief”) we can also show that it is not a mental state which ever produces the inference that twins can fly – an inference that might be made. it is problematic because it seems to be wildly untrue. We can characterize the mental state underlying the Nuer assertion by saying what kinds of input. when a conceptual constraint on something’s counting as linguistic behavior at all is that most utterances are true (see Davidson 1984). syntactic characterizations avoid these difficulties. It is not clear which statements – 65 – . leads the Nuer to place the bodies of dead twins on platforms.

there is nothing implausible about such states coexisting in a single mind. Syntactic characterizations of mental statements seem to show a great deal of promise at precisely the places content-sentence-based ascription fails most strikingly. however. have carefully documented that belief perseverance in the face of various contrary evidence of this sort is a remarkably widespread phenomenon. Moreover. irrespective of what the persevering beliefs are about. As most of the mechanisms proposed are very general mechanisms that work. The fact that such states can easily be labeled with semantic descriptions that contradict each other is no problem as long as their syntactic characterizations can account for what these people do. there is no problem in holding that the Azande do indeed have mental states we might roughly characterize in this way. Anthropologists using thick description could most easily extend and make more precise the sort of functional-role characterization they are already engaged in by formulating descriptions of specific mental mechanisms and mental states using the terminology of fat syntax. while at the same time. This is the best way to get at the exotic beliefs that really underlie the utterances we wish to translate. They have proposed various mechanisms for explaining how such perseverance might work (see Nisbett and Ross 1980). chapter 6.Todd Jones they hold true. for an example). If using functional-role theories is indeed the way anthropological descriptions can get around intentional-ascription worries. as no English pair of sentences corresponding to what seems to be the Azande belief pair could normally be sincerely asserted at the same time. syntactic descriptions do a far better job of characterizing the functioning of kinds of mental state anthropologists are interested in. With a syntactic theory. so long as there is no mechanism for detecting and eliminating what can be seen as contradictory beliefs – or if there is only a weak mechanism for doing so. Slightly more problematic is the explanation of joint perseverance of certain mental states after they have been pointed out as being contradictory in their semantic characterizations. – 66 – . a completely syntactic version of functional-role theory will be the most useful one to adopt. This sort of mental functioning is consequently more easily described using syntactic rather than a semantic characterization. contrary to first impressions. However useful content-sentence-based or other semantic descriptions of mental states may be in some realms. in the way we would expect a state labeled “witches’ relatives are also witches” would. a different mental state produces actions and inferences etc. We just have to show that there is a mental state (or mental states) that functions in the cognitive economy in a way that the belief that “not all the Azande are witches” would. It is not clear which content sentences are accurately ascribable to them. I suggest that. on the other hand. Many cognitive psychologists. there is little problem giving such mechanisms a completely syntactic characterization (see Stich 1983.

tendency to abstract. this is an auxiliary desire we can usually count on as being there. rather than a model that specifies the sorts of mental states that underlie our own behavior. all human beings are born equipped with 1) some innate belief-forming mechanisms and innate beliefs. We would be better at uncovering beliefs. lots of constraints specifying what could be believed at a given time could come from constraints on the possible ways information can be internally organized. We could then construct more specific models of particular minds. The more information we have about these general-information-processing and -organizing mechanisms.). Presumably. starting from this universal base. by starting off with a more universalistic model of mind which specified the sorts of mental states that underlie human behavior in general. People also come with some innate mechanisms for putting innate beliefs and desires – and the new ones formed as a result of these mechanisms interacting with the environment – into use at particular times to create new behaviors and thoughts. If we know. and 2) some innate desires and desire-forming mechanisms. the more information we will have about which type of internal structure must be at work producing a particular behavior. If we know that almost all people desire to avoid sex with close kin. We would then know more about what particular examples of dogs they are most likely thinking of when they seem to be speaking about dogs. Earlier I – 67 – . If we use models centered around ourselves as our guides for uncovering belief. we know they’ll have no beliefs about such colors. then observing others’ behavior leads us to infer that the beliefs underlying that behavior must be the beliefs that would produce such behavior in ourselves. for example. constrained only by a rough selfbased model. then. the more restrictions we can put on which beliefs and desires are likely to result from the specific inputs people are receiving from certain environments. Instead of ascribing beliefs based on the environmental and behavioral strategies. that people cannot perceive colors beyond a certain wavelength. And ethnographic research could tell us about the types of dog that natives are likely to most frequently encounter.Translation and Belief Ascription Using Cognitive Theories in Uncovering Mental States I’ve argued that using cognitive theories could allow belief ascribers and translators to describe and communicate about others’ mental states more effectively than could be done by strategies which use ourselves as models. etc. Models of associative memory could tell us about the relative importance of the frequency of seeing an example of a category (like dog) and its effects on the likelihood of recalling that particular example when the category is mentioned (as opposed to the effect of other factors like recency. The more information we have on which general types of structure tend to produce certain behaviors. Such a strategy will not work to the extent that others’ minds work differently than our own. I think the same can be said about uncovering which beliefs or other mental states exotic people hold.

will be done better by knowing something about the types of cognitive structure that guide and constrain belief-formation. successful mental-state description need not imply successful intentional ascription and similarity to ourselves. are inherently fraught with epistemological and metaphysical difficulties. By behavior. The dominant philosophical theory of translation. We would be do well to monitor their findings. The act of trying to translate an alien utterance. A “fat-syntax” cognitive theory can enable us to describe mental states even if they are beyond these similarity-based limits of what’s intentionally describable. These sorts of mental-state constraining model are being studied in the cognitive sciences every day. I’ve argued that a syntactic functional-role cognitive theory is even more able to adequately characterize mental states that are different from our own. In this chapter. gives us a way to characterize mental states. and the implicit theory held by many practitioners. of course.” as such a state would be so different from anything labeled the “belief that p” in our language and culture. interacting with each other in ways that are specified by general (universal) rules of mental interaction. in fields ranging from neuroscience to ethology. I’ve argued that our usual ways of doing this – using models of ourselves to infer that certain mental states are present. Cognitive diversity beyond a certain point leaves us unable to label anything “the belief that p. even if a people’s mental states are too different from our mental states to ascribe content sentences to them in the usual way. With thick description. to figure out what beliefs lie behind an act of verbal behavior.Todd Jones discussed how one can more adequately describe the mental states underling verbal and non-verbal behavior by showing how these states are the product of particular local ideas. Uttering sounds is also behavior. I’ve argued that “thick description” which describes mental states in terms of their overall role in a cognitive economy. – 68 – . and using intentional English-language characterizations to say what those are. Concluding Remarks Many scholars have written about the difficulties of translation. like the postmodernists. I am not merely referring to large-scale physical activity. have responded to these and other difficulties by nihilistically refusing to attempt to construct correct representations of the thoughts that really lie behind others’ words. I’ve tried to explain the root cause of these difficulties. I believe there are better responses. One can similarly use ideas of what general underlying mental structures must always be there (often organizing more culturally idiosyncratic information) to more adequately uncover which resulting mental states are the ones likely to be generating behavior at a given time. Some. sees the act of translating someone’s utterances or inscriptions as centering around uncovering and communicating the beliefs held by the speakers.

The idea that behavioral evidence. Why. can specify how. shouldn’t other sciences be charged with regress or circularity? And scholars from Duhem to Quine to Kuhn have argued that all scientific posits rely on vast interconnected webs of knowledge. making certain types of alteration in the auxiliary premises can enable a different “core” theory to account for the same observations as the previous theory. we could come much closer to what Clifford Geertz describes as the fundamental goal of studying others. indeterminate. in a given culture. What we ultimately want from the peoples studied. At this point. Anthropology. Philosophers use the term “intentional” to refer to descriptions of utterances and actions that involving meanings. to converse with them” (1973: 13). Cognitive psychology can play a role in helping specify the general architecture of human cognition and the ways in which mental states tend to interact with one another. The failures of positivism has led many to be skeptical of finding firm epistemic foundations for any types of knowledge. writes Geertz. a vast amount of specific information is used by this general cognitive architecture to enable people to perceive and think about the world in the ways that they do. These – 69 – . with other researchers’ knowledge about the mind. and desires. But understanding what others believe is certainly an important enough task to be worth exploring with more than our everyday tools. Notes 1. can never really confirm a particular belief ascription is a central idea in his celebrated claim that whether an alien’s cry of “Gavagai” in the presence of a rabbit really means “rabbit” or “undetached rabbit parts” is. some may protest that the sorts of problem described above are certainly not unique to belief ascription. is “in the widened sense of the term in which it encompasses much more than talk. This use of “intentional” is different from its common usage as “on purpose. If translators would begin to more fully integrate their vast knowledge of other’s lifeways. then.” 2.Translation and Belief Ascription Such an approach also puts us in a better position to adequately uncover the mental states underlying verbal and non-verbal behavior. In other sciences. beliefs. The nature of belief is such that we may never be sure we know what others are thinking and saying. in principle. along with disciplines like history. 3. This example is just a recasting of philosopher Willard Quine’s (1960) famous example. Such approaches provide better strategies for uncovering behavior than raw behavioral and environmental strategies constrained only by self-based models. by itself.

then. One is to agree that all sciences are plagued by these sorts of underdetermination worries. Claims that we are wrong about this distance would require us to claim that our basic observations of telescopes or our beliefs about their powers are wrong.g. rationally possible ones are not. Beliefs and desires are not the sort of thing that can be directly observed. This response of course can only agree with my worries about belief ascription. consequently. the auxiliaries used to make behavioral predictions here are never auxiliaries supported by direct observation – they are postulated auxiliary beliefs and desires. Bloor 1991). For example. Many anti-realist philosophers and sociologists take this line (e. Another response is to say that the very holism that anti-foundationalists advocate is a feature that actually inhibits the possibility of having numerous alternative theoretical posits in some domains of science. because of the havoc such alterations would wreak in other realms that relied on our – 70 – .Todd Jones possibilities do not make other sciences especially difficult or undoable. Collins and Pinch 1985. This is not the situation we face when talking about belief claims. Second. Many of these assumptions are well supported by direct observations of telescopes. A consequence of holism is that making changes in the assumptions needed for verifying posits in one domain would require us to alter many well-established views in realms far afield. which could force changes in our views of the powers of lasers. then suggested changes in our premises regarding telescopes would be regarded as changes that come at an unreasonably high price. only a single set of theoretical posits can satisfy all of the constraints that these mutually constraining theories impose on them. In the telescope example. First. Why. making alterations in the auxiliaries and comparable alterations in the core theories in ways that produce alternative accounts for the same behavioral evidence can often be done without incurring the high costs one incurs in other sciences. should social-scientific belief attribution be thought to be particularly bedeviled by underdetermination and the holistic nature of justification? There are several responses one might have to such worries. Claims that our beliefs about curved lenses were wrong might require us to say that we are wrong in our views about what microscopes show. making numerous alterations in our assumptions about optics that balanced each other in a way that ensured our astronomical predictions remained the same would be very costly. claims about the distance between Mercury and Venus have relied on the correctness of numerous auxiliary assumptions about the nature of telescopes.) It may be that at a given point in time. about certain features of micro-organisms. It merely says other sciences have similar problems. (See Laudan 1996 for a full articulation of the argument that while logically possible alterations are always available. If our previous views about lasers or micro-organisms are well supported by still other data. and. It might force us to change our views on the propagation of light.

MA: MIT Press. 1980. D. and Loughlin. J. C. 1983. “Children and Civility: Ceremonial Deviance and the Acquisition of Ritual Competence. and Stone. 1980.). MA: Harvard University Press. Elsewhere (Jones 1997). The only costs that are incurred come from forcing us to make changes in other postulated beliefs. 312–321. pp. With belief ascription. 1980. Knowledge and Social Imagery. The Professional Stranger. 4. Cambridge. Lexington MA: Lexington. Keller (ed. the logically possible alterations are rationally possible alterations as well. Belief holism is a “within-theory” holism. M. In that work I also argued that. and Pinch. 1985. N. References Agar. “Toward an Encyclopedic Ethnography for Use in ‘Intelligent’ Computer Programs”. Block (ed. N. Oxford: Blackwell. Collins. “Introduction: What is Functionalism?” In Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. unlike in many natural science cases. B. 1964. Changing our postulations about what other beliefs are present does not force us to deny any direct observations. Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science. Ekvall. Glassner. – 71 – . Drugs and Crime. 1987. Cummins. 269– 290. B. B.Translation and Belief Ascription knowledge of optics. on the other hand. 1991. B. Block. Geertz’s work like Lutz’s has much in common with functionalrole cognitive approaches. Davies. In New Directions in Cognitive Anthropology. or deny any of the postulates that other well-supported sciences rely on. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1. London: Academic Press. R. Urbana. I have termed Lutz’s work a “thick description” approach to explicating the meaning of alien terms because of its affinities with Clifford Geertz’s approach.). Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications. Cahill. R. 1983. Here. Cambridge. Cambridge. IL: University of Illinois Press. T.. The Nature of Psychological Explanation. But there is nothing irrational about making these changes. pp.. T. Kids.Vol. M. making changes in the auxiliary and core beliefs in ways that keep the same observable predictions does not usually affect our knowledge of matters in other realms at all. contrary to initial appearances. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bloor. 1985. Johnson. J. Carpenter. J. Religious Observances in Tibet. The Architecture of Cognition. Anderson. Colby. H. 1995. S. MA: MIT Press.” Social Psychology Quarterly 50.

In Fieldwork Experience: Qualitative Aproaches to Social Research. and Johnson.” Erkenntnis 13(1).Todd Jones Evans-Prichard. pp.” Africa 55. 149–180. New York: Alfred Knopf. B. 1975. Culture and Inference. CO: Westview. Lévy-Bruhl. Lakoff. Schaffir. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hutchins. Unnatural Emotions. New York: Harcourt Brace. Meaning of Meaning. “Interpretation Psychologized. M. Lukes (eds. The Interpretation of Cultures. Fodor. 1937. NJ. 9–61. Oxford: Clarendon. 1928. and S. M.” Journal of Anthropological Research 31. MA: Harvard University Press. E. New York: St. L. pp. Englewood Cliffs. “The Social Construction of Reality.. Coming of Age in Samoa. 1996. Beyond Positivism and Relativism. 1986. 131–162. 1985. 1973. Goldman. Crowell. 1923.” Mind and Language 1. Cambridge. 1980. 161– 185. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Hollis. K. Stebbins and A. 158– 171. Ogden and I. A. —— “Thick Description. Richards.: Prentice Hall. H. and Alternative Conceptual Schemes.). Fat Syntax. Heine. 1926. Lutz. Dutton. G. New York: E. Geertz. Gordon. Cambridge. C. M.” Pragmatics and Cognition 5. University of Illinois.” Mind and Language 4. 1985. New York: Basic. 1988.” MA thesis. pp. —— “Tom Swift and his Procedural Grandmother. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. “The Mountain People: Some Notes on the Ik of Northeastern Uganda. “Conventional Metaphors and Anthropological Metaphysics: The Problem of Cultural Translation. pp. “Folk Psychology as Simulation. —— Nuer Religion. C. Quine. T. Keesing. Metaphors We Live By. R.” Cognition 6. pp. R. 1982. 1980.). Word and Object. R. pp. “When the Mind Makes the World: An Explanation of the Use of Constructivist Ideas In Tibet. Malinowski. Witchcraft. New York: Morrow. MA: MIT Press. 1980. Oracles. E. R. 1977. The Language of Thought. 1960. Mead. and Ross. Field. W. H. J. Martin’s. 1961[1922]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hollis. 1997. 1978. 1987. Cambridge. Pepinsky. and Magic among the Azande. 1956. New York: Thomas Y. Bronislaw. Nisbett. 1989. 201–217. How Natives Think. pp. L. L. A. M. —— Supplement to C. Jones. – 72 – .” In Rationality and relativism. 1980. W. Boulder. Laudan. P.Turowetz (eds. “Mental Representation. “A Sociologist on Police Patrol”. 3–16. MA: MIT Press. Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgement.

“Human Cognition in its Social Context. Stich. or. Rationality. and Restricted Simulation. C. T. New York: Simon and Schuster. R. Venuti. 26–28 September. 1974. 1990.” Psychological Review 93. S. From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science. pp. —— The Fragmentation of Reason.Translation and Belief Ascription Stich. – 73 – .” Mind and Language 12. L. Wyer. S.” Paper presented at conference. MA: Bradford. 1986. at SUNY Binghamton. pp. 297–326. MA: Bradford. “Cognitive Penetrability. The Forest People. “Translation as a Social Process. 1991. The Violence of Translation. 1997. 1983. S. the Case Against Belief. and Nichols. Humanistic Dilemmas: Translation in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Cambridge. Cambridge. NY. and Srull. 322–359. Turnbull.


if not slope. that we might therefore label with distinct “t”terms. But as we move semiotically in increments away from that core. we increasingly are attempting to accomplish cross-linguistic/cross-cultural feats of qualitatively. let alone quantitatively distinct conceptual sorts. whether word-sized fragments of denotational text (sometimes. one that anchors the aspirations of bilingual dictionaries and so-called literal translations of expository prose documents.” even though these interact in complex.” Translation is always a process that begins and ends with textual objects.–3 – Translation. across which one glissandos by attempting the feat of an intercultural ‘gloss’. At least in our own European ethnometapragmatic tradition. We must therefore recognize that those semiotic partials of language that are cultural in various complex ways indicate different susceptibilities of purported “translation. I want to suggest. Transduction. My argument. which must be seen as cultural matter at least as much as – perhaps much more than – strictly denotational expression. composed of analytically separable partials of semiosis and hence of kinds of “meaning. turns on constructing kinds and degrees of possibility for various aspects of language material. or “translation. so-called translation theory centers on the ideologically well-trod area of denotational – 75 – . there is indeed a core of actually translatable semiosis in language. not surprisingly. as isolated.”1 When and where language conforms most to traditional European ideological construals of it. The Narrowest Concept of “Translation” There is a slippery surface. Transformation: Skating “Glossando” on Thin Semiotic Ice Michael Silverstein In this chapter I engage the issue of how it is possible to “translate” materials of language. mistaken for grammatical forms!) or booklength verbal discourses. or even otherwise (en)textual(ized) objects in other media and modes. For today we recognize that language is in some respects just like other cultural forms. and I conceptualize the gradations here in semiotic terms. which I propose here and hope to elucidate in this discussion. layered ways. that is.

of course. “target” denotational code in by in essence proposing a comparison of denotational – 76 – .”) This ideological focus on denotational textuality – coherent language-as-used to represent states-of-affairs involving things-in-universes-of-reference – provides the benchmark as well as starting point for millennia of wishful as well as wistful theorizing about “translation” and its various (im)possibilities. projecting justifiable grammatical categories immanent in the expression-type in the determinable “source” denotational code. The second step. from well within the ideological focus on denotation. and grammatical categories being combined in interesting structural ways in the (Saussurean) ‘sense’ of a word or expression. what is principally meant by the natives when they claim for example that they are reading a “translation” of Saussure’s [1916] Cours de linguistique générale “from French into English. in justifying the “translation” we might propose of some particular expression-token (even in the form of a word or expression) we are concerned with in a text we encounter on some occasion of discourse. Look at where this landed Dorothy on her way to Oz. The feat involves. from systematic or theoretical justification of it. This means determining what are the implicit or immanent type-level formal distributional relations that map into structures of denotational differentiation. involves bringing another. then we could provide systematic or theoretical justification for translating an arbitrary expression from one language to another. an ‘entextualization-in-context’ (see Silverstein and Urban 1996). But we can clarify Quine’s stricture by saying that if we could solve the problem of what Whorf (1956a [1940]: 214) called the “calibration” of linguistic systems. each such regularity of mapping being a grammatical category. The following are involved. note. first. though aching to get out). (This is. logically speaking. then. which we do accomplish somehow. who did not cleave to the Boasian yellow brick road.2 The current fashion seems to be rather uninformed lamentations over impossibilities and headaches of one or another disconstrualist3 or identity-political sort (formulated. it should be noted. on which she would have been guided by structures of obligatory grammatical categories in each language concerned – “source” and “target” – as the building blocks of compositionality! Recall that Quine distinguishes the mere fact of doing a reasonable denotational translation across two arbitrary languages. very close by to our starting point in the comfortable confines of perfectly semantically compositional expressions. As Quine (1960: 28) would say.” taking an intercultural stab-at-it by in principle unsystematizable commonsense shortcuts. in effect constructing a framework of universal grammar in terms of denotational categories and their formal codings.Michael Silverstein language and its translatability into other such denotational languages. Even for “language” itself in this purely denotationalist imaginary. there are severe limits to how we can THEORETICALLY justify what we do as interlingual glossers.4 we are in the area of “radical translation.

such categories are justifiable only to the extent that those of any one particular language come out of the universe of grammatical-categorial types in potentia that underlie all languages. Transduction. the point is to find a word or expression in the target language [a] that is centered on or headed by the most categorially encompassing lexicalization possible (from the grammatical categorial point of view) at the same time as [b] it is the narrowest differential one denotationally corresponding to its would-be counterpart in the source language.6 Hence. In respect of the properties of the source-language expression. comparing grammatically projectible expression-types in the source language with those in the target language so as to determine a fitting token expression in the target language suitable (on other semiotic grounds) to the translation-occasion. Then there are further considerations of how to narrow the target expression’s denotation (and total meaningfulness) to as precise a scope as can be managed. and it is only success in this enterprise that permits us to locate approximate lexicalizations of languages in general one with respect to another. can we so guarantee? Because. which makes it an instance or token of an underlying or immanent lexical type. Put this way. And in turn. one would claim. under these assumptions. such ‘sense’s of any word or expression in any source and target languages are expressible as structured complexes of categories of communicable difference-of-denotation. it all sounds exceedingly complicated to implement. From this it follows that to the extent all languages are indeed Saussurean systems. For example. we can translate (note the directionality:) from one language (in)to another in various zones or regions of grammaticosemantic space. Transformation language-structure with denotational language-structure. So what. So the third aspect of simple denotational translation is to complete a triangulation. Observe that constructing this bridge across languages can only be accomplished in grammatical-categorial space. the English – 77 – .Translation. is it safe to assume about real translation? If the entire course of structural theorizing about the denotational use of language has validity – and my own (dare I assert?) professional scholarly opinion is that it does – then we can denotationally “translate” across languages to the extent that we follow these dictates: grammatically projectible words and expressions in denotational text in a source language can be given at least one closest-possible gloss in a target language modulo the grammatical-categorial systems (including lexical semantic categories with distributional correlates) of the two respective languages into which the words and expressions of the denotational texts (source and target) are resolved. reference to the structural possibilities of which is essential in translating. Why should this be so? Why. we can note. even though. Saussurean ‘sense’5 is a component of the “meaning” of any word or expression only by virtue of the fact of grammar. then. this is exactly what is accomplished whenever we implicitly manage to overcome the Quinean impedimenta in an at least retrospectively principled way.

Were one translating in the direction from Worora to English. a structured subset – of the denotational range of the Worora one. )’ component by the difference of absolute vs. reciprocally also to any male’s first – and 2n+1st – ascending/descending generation patriclan male. exemplify a specialized semantic subset of inherently interpersonally relational status terms.Michael Silverstein kinship terms. though not identity. ‘male’ness. these can be shown to be categories at least compatible with the differential (Saussurean) coding structures of the two linguistic systems. is apparently coded in the variations of the Worora noun-stem. if present. indexes someone of whom “male( )” is true. (¨1¨vs. And this. like those in any language. say Worora (northwestern Australia) (ngayu) iraaya. whom we would expect to be referred to in English by the other person as my son. the grammatically construed possessor.or second-person usage – 78 – . etc. Note. ‘ascending/descending generational difference of one [between relata]’). ¨1: ‘generational difference of one [between relata]’ vs.) And note that while a female also terms her actual or classificatory ‘father’ ngayu iraaya. part of a quasi-“Omaha-type” lexical set. Otherwise.7 among others. only in the case where the “xi”. (Hence it can be noted. further. though Worora ngayu iraaya codes an absolute generational value between its relata. in order to get the “proper” translation into English. matches the English term in certain categorial stipulations of the denotatum’s ‘human’ness. that associated with the possessive element. insofar as this constitutes part of the Saussurean ‘sense’.8 And this overlap. even though the actual Worora term is applied RECIPROCALLY by a man and his actual genitor. + or –. of Saussurean “sense” allows the identification. both of my father’s sister and my daughter as denoted for a male possessor are ngayu bamraanja.Yj)’. and ‘kfa(xi. in the move of “translation” preserving as much as possible of “sense”. then. similarly ‘my father’s father’s father’ and my ‘son’s son’s son’. ‘anima[te]’cy. though clearly the denotational range of the English term is only a subset – though. evincing a kind of alternating-adjacent-generation agnatic denotational solidarity. In first. Observe then that the sex of each of the denotata. ‘count’ness. which is also the coding of the reciprocal relationship by which each of these two people in a ‘fasi’ – ‘brodau’ relationship would denote the other. Note. does the Worora expression ngayu iraaya still serve. The Worora term. to be sure. from our point of view. that were we translating English my son. as my father or my son – not to speak of greater generational distances – even for a denotationally “male( )” possessor. signed generational value between the denoted individuables. we must introduce the specific sign. the situation puts the relationship in the denotational set of a distinctly lexicalized form. as well as that of the actual head-noun stem. both that I refer to ‘my father’ as ngayu iraaya and that he so refers to me. that the respective English-language and Worora-language kinterminological “meanings” in their respective systems overlap in the ‘f( . of the initial English term with the target Worora term in that particular direction. We can translate English (my) father with a term in another language.

it is of course the individual in the role of speaker/sender of whom the sex is relevant to proper use of a noun stem – a “pragmatic” or indexical fact in the instance. ‘thy/your’) or in vocative usage without explicit possessor. Transduction. (ngayu) iraaya / (ngayu) bamraanja.e. i. The Saussurean ‘sense’ systems called grammars anchor words and expressions in a particular language in the universals of coding principles for all languages. they iterate possessor coding so as to create complex relational expressions that characterize a denotatum through a nested chain of two-place linkages.e. They will also have some specialized properties as statuscharacterizing terms usable to denote and even to refer to particular individuals. [X]’s baker (/ baker of [X]). But the point is that in the directional task of translating in the denotational mode. parallel to (be) baker to [X]. Worora uses a lexical PAIR that codes the comparable denotational range. i. For example.10 Kinterms in any language will have much of the formal-distributional and associated sense properties of such Nouns of Agency ascribed to. . someone with respect to a benefactee/ recipient/addressee. cousin to – 79 – . This same relational property is most clearly seen in explicit natural language in such phenomena as the English predicating expressions of ascriptive status and “habitual agency. Going back to our example of kinterm translation.Translation. Such terms characterize the status of a particular denotatum in terms of a two-place relational property with respect to membership in a social dyad. Those conditions are that both of the two relata – one needs to remember that kinship terms are inherently possessed. for ‘female’ possessor of ‘father’. Transformation (‘my/our’. we know that in every language kinterms are a subset of status terms (certainly for denotata classifiable as ‘human’ and perhaps for other classes of ‘being’s as well). along with only a small set of such grammatically coded relationalities. whence the well-known “relative product” expressions such as John’s father’s sister’s husband’s cousin[’s . .. which in fully nominalized form come out as [X]’s father / father of [X]. Outside of this condition. for example. such as ‘part-whole’ constructions.9 It is important to see the translation task in terms of language forms in two languages that in very different ways code pieces of the denotational differentiations we can recognize as common to the two systems of lexicogrammatical structure. and for the reciprocal kinship relationship. that ‘father’s daughter’. ]. and hence marginal to the ethnotheory of language with which we are thus far working.. English (my) father and (my) son comprise a lexical pair such that each codes a signed direction-of-relationship with respect to Worora (ngayu) iraaya.. under particular further conditions. occur only in nominal coding constructions with explicit or semantically projectible possessor as well as head noun – are both ‘male’.e.” (be) father to [X]. one can in principle determine what is a semanticogrammatically justifiable translation in the target language by appeal to the fact that denotational meanings are anchored by paradigms of categorial mappings in and across particular languages. i. or habitual for.

father. that is. in our Worora-to-English translation example above. [“past”] (it) went. etc. this centerpoint “shifts” as discursive eventrealtime moves on.” “ethno-” and otherwise. information as denotational characterizations. this means that ‘(egocentrically focused) kinship’ constitutes a DENOTATIONAL LEXICAL DOMAIN. Dravidian. . because of the overlap of two respective typological classes of lexicalization in Worora and English. there is a lexical paradigm that codes a ‘distal-subsequent’ of this interval type as well (the lexical coding is tomorrow). In both cases.Michael Silverstein [John’s father’s sister’s husband]. are the appropriate heads of the translation-expressions. The first pair shows lexical coding of the pragmatic scheme of ‘proximal’ vs. . Put otherwise. in that they provide guides to coding a source-language kinship expression with a target-language phrase built around an appropriate head lexeme. the way that lexemes on the one hand and morphological and syntactic forms on the other code pragmatic.and son-. that can be made in any language from its simplex kinterminological lexemes. Now it appears that this infinitely extensible “kinship universe” as so coded – through the magic of iterative possessive-phrase grammar – has a certain conceptual integrity when viewed through the lens of universals of lexicalization. there is. sometimes also loosely called a “semantic field. further.. .11 These regularities of a specifically lexicosemantic (as opposed to grammaticosemantic more broadly) sort within a denotational domain serve further to anchor translatability. The head will emerge from the closeness of fit of classes overlapping in denotational membership in the kinship universe in the respective languages. This has constituted for sociocultural anthropologists the typology of kinship systems – Dakota. cousin to [husband to [John’s father’s sister]]. the event of communication is the DEFAULT CENTERPOINT from which ‘proximity’ is conceptualizable. the latter pair shows grammatical coding of the same pragmatic scheme to be applied by interlocutors to the locatability of validity-realms for predicated events. Yet another pair of factors in ease-of-justification of “translation” in the usual sense is constituted by the lexicopragmatic and grammaticopragmatic regularities of languages.e. ‘day’-intervals). and such ‘Tense’-paradigm members as [“present”] (it) goes vs. yesterday for example. Thus. i. – which have been investigated through various “genealogical methods. whether by themselves or with (iterated) possessives. ‘distal-and-prior’ overlaid on standard (conceptual) intervals of duration-reckoning (here.” in which there is a set of structural regularities of how certain classes of denotata within the theoretically infinite universe as so described can regularly be characterized by a single. noniteratively possessed simplex lexical form. These two forms of what is generally called the DEICTIC (“pointing”) aspect of denotational language can be seen in English in such lexical pairings as today vs.12 In the first case. Hawaiian. a phrasal construction day before [X] and day after [X] for each of the ‘distal’ terms that takes us to two days’ remove from the ‘proximal’ day – 80 – . note. or co(n)textual.

thus in effect using the schematic presumed to apply to the momentary communicative role-structure differentially to denote something. shows various calibrational regularities when viewed in terms of lexical and morphosyntactic codings of form. among numerous others. we must leave the plane of grammar-and-lexicon – even in the hybrid mode it appears in deictic phenomena – in relation to text-in-co(n)text. however. generally known as culture. we can identify the presupposition that someone is inhabiting the communicative role of ‘sender’ or (loosely) ‘speaker’.Translation. as opposed to ‘receiver’ or (loosely) ‘hearer’/‘addressee’ as the focal notion – there are elaborations and extensions of it. Similarly. There emerge certain typologies of categorial elaborateness of deictic systems like Tense or Person or Evidentiality. Here. there is no morphological paradigm of the Tense category in English beyond the dichotomous “past” [= ‘distal-prior’] vs. Each one of these kinds of successful translation in the technical sense depends upon the way we can read text-in-co(n)text via systematic abstractions of structure that lie immanent in text-in-co(n)text insofar as anchored by the fact of grammar (and its dependent constitutive part. A First Person form differentially characterizes some ‘referent’ as the individual inhabiting this relational role at the moment of use of the form (alone or with others). too. and constitute the baseline onto which culturespecific elaborations are laminated. And similarly across all languages. Transformation presupposed for the communicative context. In the second case. lexicon). these schemata are general and abstract. for more specific intervals within the ‘nonpast’ such as to indicate futurity. by contrast. Yet even the denotational value of words and expressions in co(n)text is a function of much more than grammar and lexicon. On the comparative plane. the Person systems of which allow of calibration. So there seem to be certain recognizable DEICTIC DOMAINS where a certain overlap obtains across languages of what is indexically presupposed in-and-by the use of a token of a categorial form. We move to the plane of principles of cotextuality and contextuality for words and expressions only as they occur in discursive realtime. for example. so that in our example above we can justify our translation of Worora ngayu by English I/me/my (note the contrast of grammatical Case in English. we get along in English grammatical form with modalizations such as (it) will go and other vernacular-register approximations such as (it) is going to go. Transduction. there are distinct principles of meaningfulness that organize their systematicity. All of these. not at issue here). ‘nonpast’ [=> (‘proximal’)13]. There are other kinds of meaning communicated by words and expressions in co(n)text. are based on certain common schematic and structured understandings of communicative events and situations that are made the basis of denotational characterization of what is being communicated about. to be sure – of the grammaticopragmatic category of First Person. deixis. This is how we capture – 81 – . Crosslinguistically. and therefore to the extent that these are systematic. From the point of view of language. for other Person-category forms.

meaning co(n)text both as the form’s matrix of structuredness PRESUPPOSED and as its matrix of structuredness ENTAILED or CREATED – in effect. denote by virtue of pointing to a context some aspect of the structure of which they presuppose. Deictic forms. Indexical forms more generally simply point to their co(n)textual surround. whether by being elements of more abstract sociolinguistic REGISTERS or by themselves having a distinct indexical loading that points to a particular location in society as their normatively authorizing site of use (who/to-whom/where/when/with-what-meaning). they characterize some aspect of what is denoted in terms of that presupposed structure. see Hinton et al. We must recognize that the greater part of the meaningfulness of words and expressions comes first from various directly indexical modalities of semiosis and second from complex. universally. rule-governed structuredness of grammar in its preponderant totality (whence Saussurean sense emerges).” focusing again on the denotational relation between a lexical form and some real-world object of denotation. §I. and it is antithetical to the formal.or sub-lexical – 82 – . therefore. The specific meanings of words-andexpressions as used are at least in part a function of this – as Jakobson (1981 [1960]: 18–21) termed it. The quasi.2 [1916: 101f.Michael Silverstein the indexical and iconic modalities through which words and expressions are endowed with significances in their co(n)textual matrix. they require some “translational” attention. But. direct “iconic” values of certain formal aspects of the signals of language are frequently understood as part of what is communicated by words and expressions in co(n)text (see Jakobson and Waugh 1979: chapter 4. By contrast. distinctly marginal to denotation as such: it is always at least partly conventionalized in terms of the language-culture nexus in which a denotational system of words and expressions exists. Words and expressions have directly indexical RULES OF USE. above and beyond any Saussurean-anchored “translatable” concepts. The most fundamental kind of iconism in language (sometimes loosely called “sound symbolism. dialectic. Silverstein 1994 for examples). Both of these kinds of indexical system are essentially part of the textin-co(n)text plane at which words and expressions are endowed with meaning. 1994) is the diagrammatic characteristic of what Jakobson identified as the “poetic” – read: cotextual – organization of ritual discourse into textual form. performatively (Austin 1975 [1962]) summoned into being – in-and-by the very event of use of the particular form. through various culturally specific processes (and thereby possibly universal ones at a very different level of explanation). as Saussure long ago pointed out (in the Cours. actual imitation.]). though indexically-based ones. the significant emergent unitizations of which have internal cotextuality at hierarchically inclusive levels of structure as they unfold one with respect to another.14 Words and expressions also are organized into textual structures.1. or imagistic iconicity of lexical signal form to denoted object is. of course. to recapitulate. from Aristotle – “poetic” order of organization of discourse.

because they rely on a different approach to “translation” than the clearcut areas of Saussurean and deictic denotation. such as a hydroelectric generator. “Translation” as Transduction As folk of semiotic Wissenschaften. denotationally meaningful words and expressions of a source language occurring in co[n]text) by target expressions-in-co(n)text of another language presented through perhaps semiotically diverse modalities differently organized. splutter and the like are classic chestnuts for the [spl-. By this I mean a process of reorganizing the source semiotic organization (here.] initial sound-image – are indeed important to understand and “translationally” to capture as components of source-material expressions. (And let us stipulate for the time being that both source and target are. and other iconic tropes of classical poetics do seem to be realities of the meaningfulness of expressions for addressees in source languages that need attention in the translational process so that these realities are accommodated in the target-language textual equivalent. how these other kinds of semiotic system can be said to correspond across source and target texts – paralleling the Whorfian concept of grammaticosemantic “calibration” – is the focus of transductional relationships of words and expressions across languages.Translation. splash. in essence. we are. Once we get beyond the systematizable in this Saussurean respect. . . assonance. So the “translation”-relevant meaningfulness of words and expressions consists in the interaction of such modalities of semiosis together with the denotational modality anchored by Saussurean ‘sense’ and by deixis. These indexical and iconic values of words and expressions in co(n)textualized texts constitute a distinct area of problems we must consider for the would-be translator. as discussed above.”) As was noted above. Here. one that takes account of rather distinct semiotic properties. the gravitationally aided downstream and downward linear rush of water against turbine blades] is asymmetrically converted into another kind of energy at – 83 – . in general outlines.g. one form of organized energy [e. in what I would term a kind of semiotic transduction. Transduction. nonSaussurean semiosis always manifests in fundamentally indexical and iconic meaning processes (in the Peircean sense). Transformation “ideophones” or “morpheme partials” that seem to associate sound imagistically with concepts – English splat.and pragmaticogrammatical organization of words and expressions in their cotextual and contextual surround. Qualities of alliteration. Hence. this additional. multidimensionally “like. We should think seriously of the underlying metaphor of the energy transducer that I invoke. in the original problem. we anchor our understanding of the first kind of systematizable aspect of translation in the universal fact of (Saussurean) grammar and its consequences for semantico.

(See. etc.g.a). that we might translate by any one of the denotationally appropriate English vocatives that correspond: father!. Lee 1997. Parmentier 1997. For example. But inasmuch as theorizing “translation” has inordinately focused essentially upon this learnèd reconstruction. By contrast. dad!. The point is. the denotation-coding words and expressions into which the learnèd reconstruction of interlocution parses this complex semiotic activity turn out to be just a small. interlocutors draw on all of the various modalities of meaningfulness coded in relatively stable ways in sign form so as to produce that fragile something. people’s accounts of their.” and other tragedies of the laws of thermodynamics and of uncertainty. driven by a certain force (voltage) against the forces of its conductors (resistance/conductance)]. we have been trying to bring some conceptual order through a philosophically acute linguistic anthropology fashioned in recent years. for example. due to “friction. from which derives each normal person’s “great name” (see Silverstein ms. the ‘vocative’ forms that correspond to the Worora expression (ngayu) iraaya ‘(my) father’.” “inefficiencies. circular motion of a coil-in-a-magnetic-field gizmo around an axle with torque. pre-fetal and active impregnation of their wouldbe father (social anthropological “genitor”) as his about-to-be-conceived child.g. or their child’s. the two modes of mechanical energy are converted in a functionally regular way into another kind of energy altogether [e. how to “translate” words and expressions from source language into target. dada!. of course with some slippage between the two systems of energy organization.)15 These non-Saussurean aspects of meaningfulness are bound up in discursive processes.Michael Silverstein an energetic transduction site [e. for instance. But which of these? We must note that Worora has another vocative. In this transducer. papa!. Franklinian electric current of certain intensity (amperage). connected thus to the energy of the flowing water on turbine blades]. a traditionally undertheorized wastebasket to which. the latter considered to be something of a Baby Talk Register16 word and thence a word ascribed to children’s Worora usage. We are dealing with the non-Saussurean aspects of meaningfulness of words and expressions. all – 84 – . djidja in a pragmatic paradigm of indexical meaningfulness. ira. reflexively salient partial of what it precipitates. pop!. much of what goes into connecting an actual source-language expression to a target-language one is like such a transduction of energy: for here we are dealing with the transduction of semiosis beyond what Saussurean sensesystematics informs us about. nevertheless. let us consider some of the effects of non-Saussurean semiotic partials of discursive activity starting from this usual starting point. interlocutors collaborating in multiple modalities to create text-structures-in-context over the course of realtime interaction. To achieve text-structures-in-context. harnessing at least some of it across energetic frameworks. There is the regularly formed “bare stem” form of vocative. Consider. daddy!. for the first-ascending-generation forms.” “random contingent factors.

Thus. These other factors comprise. on the other. One tries to equate Worora and Anglo-American (at least) CULTURAL SYSTEMS OF VALUE that endow the register forms with indexical meaningfulness – capturing this way how both source expression and target expression point to appropriate contexts and create effective contexts in systems of use as verbally mediated social action. the ratio of “true” translation in our narrowed sense to at best systematic transduction will obviously vary. “daddy. the mere fact that there might be paraphrases in a source language where one form is a grammatically conforming and compositional expression while its “synonym” is a grammatically classifiable lexical simplex. Whorf 1956c [1945]: 99] collocation. “Djidja. then. for Worora djidja it would be the more Baby Talk types. already illustrates a difference of translation/transduction ratio. So as a function of different classes of words and expressions in a source text. English [X] murder [Y] (with the simplex verb) means not merely the same as ‘[X] cause [Y] to die’ (with the grammatically constructed phrasal collocation). insofar as there is a distinction among the various English language forms. Hence.” which always caused me to remark its inappropriateness in the American English system of vocative register sets. my grown Worora-speaking friends of the mid-1970s. what underlies an intuitive ‘transduction’ of the source expression in the first language into some (organization of) target expression(s) of the second. Grown men exchange the vocative “ira!” in Worora. in the first instance. perhaps papa. would alternate the only translation-equivalent they knew. transducible in my English-language pragmatics as “dad!” or “pop!” (not “son!”) though. conceptualize something like a ratio of LINGUISTIC-STRUCTURALLY JUSTIFIABLE OR SYSTEMATIC ‘translation’ on the one hand to the various additional factors that go into giving an interlingual gloss. Transduction. Lucy 1992a: 65–71. daddy. These indexed presuppositions are associated with – 85 – . and its denotationally closest (termed “synonymous”) correspondent expression in simplex lexical form. We might. in switching codes sometimes. that are the correct transductions from one system of indexical contextualization to another. cultural ones – to the compositional meaning of the seemingly isosemantic [= same-“sense”d. it is the simplex lexical form that inevitably has a “meaning” that adds multiple pragmatic (indexical) and metapragmatic factors – in short.g. Silverstein 1987).17 We know that various classes of words and expressions have particular complexities – besides the semanticogrammatical (Saussurean ‘sense’) structures and pragmaticogrammatical ones – that to different degrees play roles in their complete “meanings” (cf. e.Translation. Lee 1997: 170–74. given a semanticogrammatical composite. 1992b: 95–102. ngayueguwaligee!” ‘Daddy! It’s (precisely) me!’ – using the vocative in question. Transformation contain the formulaic utterance.18 but share the semantic meaning of the latter plus some indexed presuppositions in the realms of normative cultural knowledge. a fully productive syntactic collocation. lacking any alternative forms in local Pidgin English. Of course. In any language. dada.

It is systematically relative to how transductional aspects of interlingual glossing depend on the pragmatic aspects of both languages. Hence. really. (conscious) intentionality. as well as unmediated qualities of ‘caus[e]’al interaction by which X causes Y to die. is all this? The translation/transduction ratio – or.Michael Silverstein (rational) agency.” then. we can dispute the very possibility of systematic expressibility of the targeted performative effect of indexicals in some pragmatic metalanguage. indexical of) an institutionalized social structure bears as part of its meaningfulness – of course this is every term.e.. use of a token of which constitutes a type of act that indexes judgments of a culturally rich sort.19 And can such performable effects. after all.. denotationally centered approaches to “translation. consider the textual appearance in an English source of. – all of interest. from an arbitrary source structure to some augmented. what kinds of text in what kinds of context is this source-language term or expression characteristically used in? How practical. which sociologically center or anchor “authorized” usage of the term murder in a larger cultural “division of linguistic labor” (Putnam 1975). interval of ratios permissible as the translator’s wiggle-room – is a function of such properties in both source and target languages. Such source-text – 86 – . a word like murder-. to formalizers in legal institutions. That is to say. Bakhtin (1981) long ago pointed out the essential dialogical or mimetic renvoi to such authorizing contexts that each (at least logically) “successive” usage of any word or expression so centered in (hence. semanticogrammatically conforming textual structure of the target language? Hence.” i. etc. as it turns out! To the degree such complexes of presupposition contribute particularly to the performative efficacy of textual use of words and expressions as social action they constitute the very limits of normal. notwithstanding being unexpressed in denotationally explicit code. REPRESENT.e. the question is how. say. centrally those ways in which a language is part of ‘culture’ by virtue of the sociocultural contextualization – i. in translation. and similar attributes of humans projected onto the denotatum of X. So the ratio is in fact doubly relative in this way. could we work them back into some target textual object in the – in principle – right way? This would be to preserve all of the properties of the original save for this transduction of semiosis.” For in dealing with performative efficacy. such performative indexicalities. be “translated. much of what goes for the “translation” even of simplex words in a text of a language actually constitutes transduction of indexical systems invoked by token usage of the words in the source text. Is there a determinate way to use a corresponding word or expression in the target plus all the metapragmatic description that fills in the presupposed contextual invocations of the source word? Would this require a shadow apparatus of a cultural encyclopedia to answer such questions as. even were one able to “express. indexical presupposition and especially indexical entailment (performativity) – of the flow of language-in-use. ultimately.

Think of transducing obscenities. So we try. of the semantic and the purely pragmatic.. frequently coinciding with roles in communication itself. etc. curses.” i. you motherfucker!” or some such? Clearly. transduction. So if the original source-language word or expression communicates such contextual information indexically. performative) effect in Tonkawa. We must resist this temptation. in one pragmatic register of a source language into “equivalents” in a target language. Those contexts or those conceptual distinctions in a source usage are indexed in-and-by the use of certain words or expressions in particular events of communicative usage. discussed above) with a whole denotational phrase (viz. like speaker–addressee–overhearer (audience). imprecations. to translate a word laden with lots of indexical rules of use (e..e. This move causes such conceptual confusion of the denoted and the indexed. We can understand these indexical values frequently in terms of describable social differentiations of kinds of actors who take various roles in sociocultural context. in fact.g. both as conceptualization and as discourse. even if our forebears have not. just translating the denotational content does not seem to suggest the difference of original indexical (here.” while Hemayan gadau shilwan! ‘may you give birth to a wandering [shilwan] ghost’ “is the very acme of profanity. then to transduce – 87 – . as makes our Quines quiver. Transduction. Harry Hoijer (1933: 135) reports that the Tonkawa20 curse Hemayan! ‘ghost’ is “a fairly mild oath. such description of context is metapragmatic. as well as of their meta-levels. because we better understand how even the simplest attempt at interlingual glossing is laden with ‘culture’ in a very specific way. Worora iraaya. Sometimes we are tempted to assimilate such systematic transductions to the narrower ethnometapragmatic “translation” concept that everything must fit into target-language denotational code. REGULARITIES across such (as we can term them) grammaticopragmatic systems – distinct from Saussurean grammar in analytic fact if not in the overt signal of words and expressions in text – we can understand that there is the possibility of a certain systematicity of transductions as well as of translations. etc. supplementary textual apparatus – like notes – in effect to “explain” the pragmatic particulars that make the original text work so that the target text can also work in “like” ways for those who wish to encounter it. In the nature of things. (Or we need as transducer an elaborate. as valuated conceptual distinctions indexically invoked in-and-by the use of words and expressions in inhabited social-actional context.. Transformation indexical values have to be reconstructed in indexical systems of another culture as these can be made relevant to shaping the target text to be doing effectively equivalent ‘functional’ work. the denotational literalness of the first generally play a small role in the choice of a proper or best “translation. man’s son) and be done with it. Thus. son of a man.Translation. for example. though pragmatically neutral.) To the extent to which there are..” Are these the equivalents of American English “Darn!” and “Eat me.

But perhaps because it is so difficult to avoid the blunder. Every subsequent usage of the term-labeling-the-concept is a textual reference or Bakhtinian renvoi to the ethnographic text. Geertz 1988).” its ineffable source-language indexicalities replaced by the target-language indexicalities located in the ethnographic text that co(n)textualizes it. this makes the target-language ethnographic text the supervening ‘context’ (strictly speaking.Michael Silverstein it into a target-language word or expression is to find a way to index something comparable in the way the resultant target text communicates to its intended receivers. much as in the ideology of technical concept/term coinage rampant in scientific circles. So. the contextually exhausting ‘cotext’) for the nowborrowed term. we anthropologists seem easily to despair of the transductions necessary to deal ethnographically with key labels for cultural concepts. and because we do indeed have metapragmatic descriptive machinery for describing social context.” By contrast. we are always tempted simply to reproduce a phonologically adapted form of a “native” term in an otherwise target-language ethnographic text. the borrowed term is not so much translated as at best transduced modulo the very ethnographic text. a comparable context in the target). now interposed between source-language users of the term and target-language users of it. thus being indexically known by it and becoming a topos of disciplinary discourse. Such co(n)text implicitly defines this now-borrowed foreign term or at least it provides in toto a chunk of something of a descriptive backing so the term can denote something for the reader who makes it to the end of the relevant prose. at least partially. mutatis mutandis. We must note that only rarely has the “untranslated” term undergone a transformation into an actual technical – 88 – . Crapanzano 1986. As can be easily seen now. The ethnographic text becomes its secondary indexical origo for a substitutive system of indexical meanings. note. driven by our own ideology of sloppy “translational” failure. further. In this way.21 It tends. Finding no easy and “meaning”-exhausting translation in our narrower sense.22 Authorial begging of indulgence to suspend translation on grounds of “ineffability” may thus also be a discursive move to guarantee to said author the authority of having “been there” (see Clifford 1983. the attempt is to build the erstwhile indexical meaningfulness of source-language words and expressions used with certain effect in context into the purported “translation meaning. mixes together many distinct semiotic levels and essentially transforms the source text-in-co(n)text. to make of the author of such an ethnographic text the patron of the untranslated term/concept as his or her own. simply to use expressions that describe the context of use of a word or expression in the source language (rather than ones that index. into an object of contemplation and characterization. and being wary of functionally distorting transduction. there emerges at best an effective transduction of each such term an ethnographic author refuses to “translate. In essence.

Italian a formally ‘third person singular feminine’.. so as to be able to navigate a proper transduction from the source to the target. Here. such a term has tended to remain an index of the particular ethnographer’s authority over the way we think of the culture whose term remains untranslated but instead revalued so as to index some ethnographic interpretative text. In every one of these systems.e. Rather.23 Traditionally they have operated in societies in which systems of stratificational rank of interlocutors and denoted others constitute the basis for gradated indexical acts of deference from one person (as speaker/ sender) to another (as addressee and/or referent).) Much more common is the situation in which the transductional equivalents are not obvious: how does one capture the “tone. even though the denotational (semanticogrammatical) categories along with which these indexical distinctions are signaled differ from language to language. It rests on the fact that structurally comparable distinctions constitute the respective languages’ indexical machinery. So there is no easy solution to the problem posed by textual words and expressions requiring transduction.” The words and expressions cluster around a limited number of denotational domains – thus never the whole lexicon – as used in certain kinds of grammatically parsable collocations. Tibetan. Modulo this indexing of someone’s deference entitlement with respect to a speaker.” for example!). But this is clearly only the case where the contextualizing indexical systems of how forms are used are more or less comparable across source and target – as in Whorf’s “Standard Average European” (1956b [1941]: 138) languages. something on the order of a cultural analysis of both systems of usage is a prerequisite to finding a route of transduction. a speaker’s control of the higher reaches of the lexical – 89 – . all that is at issue in “translating” is finding the proper lexical equivalents at the denotational plane (translation in the narrow sense). substitution of the proper sort can be easily accomplished. in analytic terms that reveal both the similarities and the differences. of a word or expression in a source text by one in a target language used in a highly distinct culture? Clearly.Translation. When there is an easy transduction of an indexical system of meaning from one language-culture to another. etc. Javanese. German uses a formally ‘third person plural’ denotational pronominal for “V”-ing someone. This ease of indexical transduction is the exceptional case. (Observe that. modulo transducible indexical values. the systems manifest themselves in elaborate pragmatic paradigms of what native users think of as gradiently alternate ways of denoting “the same thing.” i. Transformation term or even popular catchword in a generation or two (think of how laypersons speak of American society’s “taboos. Transduction. and Russian a ‘second person plural’. German Sie (: du) easily translating into Italian Lei (: tu) or Russian vy (: ty). Hence. Korean. Consider the famous “speech levels” of languages like Japanese. moreover. however. indexical penumbra. Sundanese. the “T/V” systems (Brown and Gilman 1960) of European languages transduce easily. in strictly grammatical categorial terms.

euphemistic.g.” and/or between relatively “impersonal/institutional” vs. the stratification of registers is reflected in context-appropriate and context-entailing “stylistic” adjustments that speakers make. though with fewer. Hence. American English (Brown and Ford 1964[1961]. In another order of indexical effects. the registers created by the fact of standardization in SAE languages are at least partially implemented in ways parallel to the “speech-level” deference indexicals of the various Southeast Asian languages mentioned. speaking “well” is speaking with an indexical renvoi – signaled by use of higher register – to having inhabited or inhabiting superordinate positions in important contexts of social action. In one mode. it is the difference between relatively “formal” vs. forms in the pragmatic paradigm.Michael Silverstein alternants indexes someone as well of considerable deference entitlement and/or a formal. public occasion. though focused on pronominal usage. “informal. one can transduce a high Javanese term by an elaborate latinate. indexes a range of contextual states of affairs.24 Note. Greco-Latin forms with complex morphological structure). rather than monosyllabic term in English. moreover. Morford 1997). The latter registers are at least partially comparable in function to “T/V” systems of SAE languages. that there exist systems of stratified registers of language use like that of American English or any other SAE language in a diverse but standardized language community. hence less subtly entextualizable. It allows a speaker to recognize the deference entitlement of an addressee as a contributing factor to these. and other highly valued functional alternants comprehended in standard (e. line up as somewhat comparable in their total usage (see Agha 1994. In any of these language communities. both giving off something of the same indexical effect modulo their systems of cultural interpretation of such. centering as they do on honorification and indexical gestures of deference. in English. “(inter)personal/biographical” contexts of communication. even though it does not have a pronominally focused “T/V” system. One can transduce a “T” or “V” form usage in an SAE language by one of the several different – 90 – . Murphy 1988) does equivalent social indexing with paradigms of alternant personal names. Using various technical. Hence. it points to relatively high self-positioning of the speaker as well within the schemata of stratification made relevant to the situation. But of course the SAE “T/V” systems. Notwithstanding some fundamental differences in how these indexical variations are understood in local cultural terms. Thus. all the while “saying the same thing” as one could in more prosaic register. even though all functions may not be associable with an equal diversity of comparable forms in moving from language-culture to language-culture. The point here is that across these cultural systems there are comparabilities we can recognize in the discursive facts catalogued above. there seem to be parallels across languages both of how people use the forms and of their contextualizing indexical values.

then. transducing material moves us between a source cultural system and a target one. Scientifically unsystematic practices of generations of anthropologists-as-ethnographic-“translators” have turned source-language/culture material willy-nilly into signs of the structures of power and influence of the professional and scholarly worlds in which the discourse of ethnography is carried on as a central social practice. Recall the discussion above of “untranslated” cultural terms in ethnographies. Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables “adapted” – “translated” – to the – 91 – . Finding comparabilities and overlaps in the way words and expressions do their culture-specific indexical work is a task eminently anthropological. On the basis of such.Translation. And so forth. The Transformation of Cultural Meaning More than really translating material (in my narrowed sense). So whether we see it pretheoretically as the problem of stylistically matching an original’s “tone” with a translated one.25 But in another sense. transduction constitutes a distinct problem area for “translation. But this leads us to consider that in transduction. operating as we do in the realm of culture more frankly. inasmuch as it is comparison of cultural forms of social action. Transformation ‘second person singular’ personal deictics in the various Southeast Asian systems. transformation can be considered to result from a kind of misfire of intent with respect to translation and transduction. It is the stuff of ever-evolving performance institutions in our own society’s cultural life. one of many types of transformation of [en]text[ualization]s defined by the semiotic axes along which it happens. Doing so in the proper kind of framework of comparison allows us not to obliterate the very real differences in total cultural effect while recognizing parallelisms of how certain semiotic machinery – here. there is always the possibility of transformation of the [en]textual[ized] source material contextualized in specific ways into configurations of cultural semiosis of a sort substantially or completely different from those one has started with. we can think of determinately intentional aesthetic genre transformation. as for example William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet becoming – being “translated” into – Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In each system words and expressions are indexically anchored within entextualizationsin-context. and we attempt to move across these. use of words and expressions – does abstractly similar communicative work. or we see it more theoretically as dealing with the limits of comparability of cultural indexicalities keyed by particular words and expressions.” It is not to be confused with translation in our narrower usage. a “translator” can attempt to induce in an addressee of the selected and deployed target-language form some understanding comparable to what an addressee of the source-language form would understand in the originary communication. In one sense. Transduction.

in which the conceptual labels of other cultures. consider again the case of nontranslation of ethnographic words and expressions. Even trying to play it as safe as we can with the textual stuff with which. complete with a durational interval of relevant half-life! But here the “coinages” are words from another language/culture. by hypothesis. then. we start. to give the ethnographic author a kind of “ownership” over the scholarly term from “one’s people. etc. These are wholesale exercises in transformation in our sense of the term. intendedly transduced so as to get their technical meaning from one’s target-language ethnographic text. This fits into the general scientific-scholarly notions of precedence of attributed or at least ascribed coinage for technical terminology of a field’s discourse – a sociocultural fact if ever there was one. Of course. the label for the ineffable concept. So the overall co(n)textual meaning of such a term has been profoundly transformed. the untranslated but cotextually transduced material. then.Michael Silverstein musical stage by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and associates. The point is that the meaningfulness of the very terms that originate in some source language in source-culture usage has been transformed significantly in the target-language and especially target-cultural usage. become the trophies displayed (the ethnographic text being the pedestal) for those elected. From the point of view of semiotic transformation now.26 The point here is not to praise or condemn this other meaningfulness (that is. For the culture of anthropologists renders us members of the academic and other professional institutional orders and endows originary technical terms – among them. Sometimes there is no way sufficiently to systematize and limit the transduction of verbal material across functionally intersecting pragmatic systems. users (implicit “referencers” or explicit “citers”). “untranslated” words and expressions from ethnographic loci – with special kinds of meaningfulness. Gumlao? Edmund Leach. one’s fame as it were: the professional descriptive backing associated with the use of the proper name of the author is. semiotic transformation then occurs. Kula? Bronislaw Malinowski. to the degree that there – 92 – . There is a kind of Hall of Fame principle organizing such a social system. carrying forward this style of “nontranslational practice” in ethnographic genres becomes centrally involved in social reproduction of a disciplinary line or category through the establishment of a canonical text site. as noted. Because of the transformation of semiosis just described. in their own stratified discursive regimes. Part of this involves indexing identities and qualities of the terms’ creators (“discoverers”). Thus can practitioners of identity creation and management within disciplinary and more popular circles learn how to institutionalize such transformations of value in a highly deliberate manner. indexically manifested cultural value) that emerges for imported source-language terms in anthropological and wider discursive usages. If the effect is.” immediately this ownership becomes indexically convertible with one’s name.. exotic.

as for other semiotic material. that translation and its more fluid – as opposed to gelid – extensions.” (And of course this is true as well for all those aspects of text-in-context itself that are not conformingly Saussurean. So to the extent to which there is a concept of “tropic meaning” attached to the respective elements of source and target texts. of course. Think for example of transforming a schema of moral values into a color code. such as transduction and transformation.) Perhaps. and rendering a painting according to the scheme. these are at least in part transformations one of the other. Think of allegorical embodiment of moral values. Even when a token of a word appears printed on a page in an expository prose text and when a token of it appears printed on a page of concrete poetry. Transformation is transduction beyond a translator’s intended limits. the effects of trope-generating transformation come to play a role in any further stability of actual translation in our narrow sense – starting the cycle all over again! It is clear now. which thus operate without a true grammaticosemantic system of the Saussurean type to anchor them. there is always something of the transformational in every attempted translation! Usually. and. hence graspable “tropic” appearance. emerging out of an [en]text[ualization]-in-context. transformation of source material. to the degree to which the source and target elements constitute parts of diagrammatic forms of each other in their respective cotexts. the translation metaphor in these other realms – for that is what it is – does more harm than good. Transduction. rather than transduction or translation of it. occur in a kind of nested set of relationships that emerge in the process of explicit interlingual glossing. Sometimes it is possible selectively to reshape an organization of them so that the target verbal material appears in texts of very different functional characteristics. seems to occur as a risk (or license!) of starting from source entextualizations far from home that require radical reshaping in the “translational” attempt to domesticate them. At the same time. the very organization of pragmatic systems that are involved in the source situation of usage cannot be duplicated in the target situation. transduction and transformation play the unrecognized – or at least untheorized! – major role in what is sometimes loosely termed “translation. as noted above. as in so much of Renaissance painting. yielding a relationship of transformation of a certain localized. Transformation is. transformed material. can be put in correspondence with source material as IT occurs in [en]text[ualization]-in-context. as different. since it misconstrues the vast gulf that exists – 93 – . Hence. as musical “text” and painting-as-“text. then.” as it were. the condition of emergence of meaning is textuality-in-context.Translation. the very condition of trope. I hope. a higher-order notion of “translation-prime” is in a sense suggested. while remaining language. The “translations” that result must perforce be shaped as discourse genres that license the effectiveness of target verbal forms in sociocultural ways highly different from the originary ones. we must remind ourselves. I expect that for semiotic systems unlike human language. For verbal.

and hence if we are to understand the nature of the three T’s. Wittgenstein or a Greek or Latin author in the Loeb Classical Library. is available to us. in some physical form and. insofar as most of their manifestations are in fact nonlinguistic. And even within a cultural tradition.” for example. we have to understand something of the nature of such textual objects in culture. it misplaces its interest at levels of abstraction and organization that are far from what can be “translated. Much of what looks like ‘language’ in a superficial. note. which exist. Not. in the generation of at least one text in this sense. “under” – a culture. But it is with respect to texts that people mutually adjust one to another in realtime social interaction. For the critical and inevitable point about “translating cultures” is that at beginning and end of these processes we are dealing with textual objects experienceable and intelligible only within – or as the mathematicians would say. then. as contingencybound semiotic objects that arise as structures of informational or conceptual coherence in context. As a form of social action. are of the essence. in fact. things like linguistic forms and other traceable bodily signs.” but by its indexical characteristics and related modalities of meaningfulness that interweave with Saussurean-based denotational form. for such parts of a text. In this sense. only the explicit mediating “stuff” of which. text-artifacts. even perdure. say. the precipitated record of this is a text. ideologically driven view of the continuous signals of denotational textuality is actually semiotically complex cultural material. mediate the entextualization/contextualization process between two or more people.)27 And let us recall yet further critical points for “translation” within the domain of phenomenal language itself. The very forms of abstract language structure. rather than translation. (Even reading a – text-artifactual – book or looking at a – text-artifactual – painting are contingent acts that result. we hardly treat a ballet (entextualization of tableaux of bodily movement) set to music (entextualization of pitches and tonal intensities in metered combination-and-sequence) in the same way as [= as homology of] how we treat a denotationally-centered “bilingual edition” of.Michael Silverstein between language and these other systems in the way of manifestation of semiotic capacities. can be distinguished by the concentrated cultural lumpiness they embody as an important functional aspect – 94 – . culture penetrates into phenomenal language via indexicality and iconicity28 so that transduction and transformation. language use in entextualizing/contextualizing events is endowed with all the dialectically emergent creativity (technically. perhaps revealing the ineptness or just looseness of the metaphors invoked. As well. circulating. of varying degrees of coherence. Such material is defined not by its Saussurean-centered “denotationality. indexical entailments) of any such cultural semiosis.” “Cultures” as such cannot be (in our narrower sense) “translated. We are speaking here of texts. to the degree that something is communicated.

the latent content of language – our intuitive record of experience – and the particular conformation of a given language – the specific how of our record of experience. The very act of “translating” according to the intents of the usual. say a play of Shakespeare’s. . One can follow this in the historical accounts of twentieth-century translation theories. says that the latter is therefore perfectly right in saying that a work of literary art can never be translated. Transformation of their categorial differentiation. The crisis – 95 – . which can be transferred without loss into an alien linguistic medium. of course. e. but that medium comprises two layers. This brings up the question of whether in the art of literature there are not intertwined two distinct kinds or levels of art – a generalized.Translation. Notes 1. Such parts of language already inherently require different kinds of “translational” treatment. chronologically organized anthology of Venuti (2000). Gentzler 1993. and in the admirable. If it moves in the upper rather than the lower level – a fair example is a lyric of Swinburne’s – it is as good as untranslatable. Sapir’s ([1921] 1949: 221–31) discussion of “Language and Literature. is translatable without too great a loss of character. non-linguistic art. and a specifically linguistic art that is not transferrable . my argument attempts to be more subtle both in respect of language form (Sapir’s “particular conformation of a given language”) and of cultural form (Sapir’s “latent content”). drawing on Benedetto Croce (1909. from denotational textuality (and especially its lexicogrammatical underpinnings in language systems). Literature that draws its sustenance mainly – never entirely – from the lower level. Both types of literary expression may be great or mediocre. and we now understand language to have a complex semiotic manifestation. sometimes with astonishing adequacy. 2. . as translation theory has attempted to take account of the sociocultural nature of language in all its contextualized varieties. 21922).” for example. as it were.g. denotationally focused ethnotheory – wherein at least one text must be construed – is a process that thus cannot but be INHERENTLY TRANSFORMING of any such cultural material in the source text that has indexically entailing potential realized in context. since we now understand culture in fact to be semiotic form. Literature moves in language as a medium. Not in and of itself a startling or new point. Here. Nevertheless literature does get itself translated. note the progression outward. Transduction. Thus.

Observe that denotationally speaking. especially sensitive in postcolonial contexts. construire ‘construe’. Saussure’s “signified” (signifié). 4. cf. déconstruction. we can regularly compute the meaning of C. A grammatically complex expression ‘C’ consisting of elements ‘A’ and ‘B’ is said to be semantically compositional if. It is also. Venuti 2000: 15–25) and George Steiner (1975. the logic of the Praguean revolution in the study of phonology. there is generally compositionality. Thus. of course. of course. Note the re-lexicalization by translating [!] with a view to the originary attack to counter the deep-rooted French – and other – school practice of “construing” a text as to form and determinate “meaning. cf. predicate-argument notation with a given – 96 – 3. but do not seem to have realized that the semiotic re-partialling of language/textuality itself is necessary to theorizing these matters in a more productive and systematic way. the [building-] demolition image seems to have caught the fancy of generations of writers feeling themselves to have been liberated in their aggressions. This is the Boasian or Whorfian idea of the “calibration” of languages one with respect to another modulo a universal grammar or space of possible categorial systems (Silverstein 2000: 86–94). a noun] yields a nominal expression [=C] yellow bird-.Michael Silverstein of finding the right semiotic aspect of language about which to anchor translational practice always seems to start from conflicts of “fidelity” that are. English blue bird.g. e.is compositional. Bassnett and Trivedi 1999) are concerned with “identity” and “culture” in relation to translation. the functioning of sound systems in languages and in language. two pillars of translation studies. 7. which is only synthetically or constructively associable with any given sign-type (Saussure’s signifiant) after one has. leading to the theory of ‘[distinctive] features’. in principle.[=B. Alas. an adjective] plus bird. 5. yellow. given the meanings of A and B plus the rule of construction by which A and B are joined to form C.is not. Recent writers in translation studies (Venuti 2000: 331–488. while bluebird. in English attributive constructions of modifying adjective preceding modified noun. centered in the first instance on denotation. What I am terming ‘Saussurean sense’ is.[=A. subscripts key individuable entities as indexed. though we would now see them as proceeding from the semiotic complexity of textuality-in-context. Capital letters in this rough-and-ready notation key the argument that becomes the apparent phrasal denotatum of the linguistic expression. Both Walter Benjamin (1923. 31998). Silverstein 1993. illustrate the anxiety. in European ethnolinguistic reflexivity. 6.” my English from the French déconstruire. . the meaning of which modulo the grammar is a computable function of the meanings of the two simplex stems. cf. done a complete grammaticosemantic analysis of the entire language system of which signifier and signified are correlative partials at the level of synchronic norm.

“things”]. This makes the denotatum of Y ‘[X]’s bake. if taken literally. Transformation number of variables suggests a semantically n-place relational ‘sense’. here used in the active intransitive implying a generic direct object [sc. Observe that when used with the underlying verb bake-. 9.’ the lesser or more specific the denotational range. somewhat sad. suggesting a newly discovered antipodean parthenogenesis among Australian Aboriginal men.+ -er to [X]. It is. [Y] (to) mother.” It is an object lesson in how bad theorizing emerges in anthropological work in realms of culture when language and other central. where they are lexical nouns. Transduction. 10. cf. poorly theorized. understanding of atomicness of ‘sense’ elements and a compositional algebra in terms of which simplex and complex ‘senses’ are relatively definable. – 97 – 8.Translation.[X] are derivative (denominal) forms meaning [Y] ‘to be(come) father/mother to/of’ [X].’ coded in a phrase-type like [Y] bake. or theorized by bad analogies. Observe the proper relationship between Saussurean ‘sense’ and denotational range: the ‘simpler’ the Saussurean ‘sense’.[X]. such as “iraaya ‘father. . son [man speaking]’.. marking the identity of speaker and possessor!). the more ‘complex’ the Saussurean ‘sense. from models that involve Boolean and other kinds of combinatorics (configurational “syntax”) of ‘sense’ elements themselves. impossible for me to review here the long. djidja]. the forms in the text. 11. the second confusing grammatically construable possessor (the first occurring NP as in [NP’s NP]NP) with the individual inhabiting the speaker role in a vocative or equivalent use (which would in any case be accomplished with a special vocative form of stem [in Worora ira. . also. Importantly. ‘father. All this follows from the Saussurean assumptions of modern linguistic semantics. intimate register.for [X]. The simplicity and complexity involve at least an intuitive. in areas of lexical semantics.’ The kinterms do not have such completely verbal constructions in a language like English. such as [Y] (to) father. or even altogether avoided in favor of identifying culture with a heap of simple word-and-“thing” mappings. and especially. as also one of the major fields of play for “ethnoscience”/ “cognitive anthropology” and especially its notions of “componential analysis. Anthropologists will recall the charming way that European native ideologies of reference pack all this into translations of the lexical heads of such grammatically complex expressions. meaning-giving semiotic systems are neglected. son of a man’. . the denominative transitive verbs.+ -(e)r’ or ‘bake. and now much abandoned field of “kinship and social organization” focused on lexical items that was once the mainstay of self-described “social” anthropology (comparative sociology of kin-based societies). the greater the denotational range. here one with two arguments notated as ‘x’ and ‘Y’. the X occurs as the ‘benefactee. of course. if not formalized.” the first of the glosses.” or “.

the other fails so to communicate [the socalled neutral meaning].g. and Lee 1997: 277–320. and constantly maintain and renew this indexical value of words and expressions in (con)text.g. e. expressions indexes (in literary gesture. the tendency of dichotomously opposed categorial values to be asymmetric. Kripke 1972. Bakhtin (see for example 1981: 270ff. A related fact is that the neutral-negative form of obligatory grammatical categories is thus also used where no specific value is communicated. words. The symbolization here is with an arrow to indicate ‘implicature’ (Grice 1989 [1967]: 24ff. 13. in that one categorial form specifically communicates a denotational value. – 98 – . both in respect of thoroughgoing sociolinguistic differentiation such that the very use of certain pronunciations. though it subsumes these narrower worryings of the problem of referring and renders them generalizable and useful to the anthropologist and other student of sociocultural conceptualization. and in pragmatic discursive context is generally used so as to “implicate” – suggest unless countered – the negative. “timeless” truths expressed in English – where a Tense marking is obligatory on a finite clause verb – with a ‘nonpast’ [=> (‘present’)] inflectional form. Since instruction in discursive interaction is frequently given in Baby Talk Register. Complex (e. and/or that adults actually use in addressing an infant or young child.g. complementary.) and a parenthetical presentation of the specific semantic content implicated by the ‘nonpast’ value of the category.) termed this the fundamentally “heteroglossic” nature of a language and of its linguistic community. the combination of primary origin-point with partially transposed secondary one from a narrated character’s point of view constitutes “indirect free style” of narration of “represented speech and thought. 16. or indeed of someone else’s actually more originary production. 15. Tense categories incorporate such secondary origines into their very morphological codings. see Silverstein 1996. Baby Talk Register consists of forms that adults use in characterizing infants’ or young children’s usage. children sometimes do acquire these terms. In literary narrative.) introduction of MARKEDNESS into lexicogrammatical analysis.Michael Silverstein 12. Schwartz 1977). Putnam 1975. ‘conditional’) and relative (e. This captures the essential insight of Jakobson’s (1971 [1939]: 211ff. or polar-opposite denotational value. 291ff. This approach early on converged with the Kripke–Putnam understanding of a “causal theory” of reference (see Griffiths 1997: 171–201. Note that there are ways of constructing secondary deictic origins by describing (in language) the context in which such a situation is to be conceptualized. Elaborate sociolinguistic processes bring this into being. ‘pluperfect’). 14.. constitutes a renvoi to) some site of normatively originary discursive production.” for which see especially Banfield 1993 [1978] and references there.

Transformation locutions. 19. (1983: 157) 17. etc. etc. and the classic papers of Ferguson that developed the topic in both universal-typological terms and in terms of functional relations to other “simplified registers” (1964. 1977. It argues that what we can hope at best to achieve in ethnography is a goal of transduction specifically of “key terms” of a culture to reco(n)textualization within a target-language – 99 – . 20. emblems of immaturity. 157–58. See Casagrande (1964 [1948]) for one of the early recognitions and treatments of this phenomenon. also Dil 1971.Translation. This constitutes Searle’s (1969: 30–33) problem of how to formulate determinate “illocutionary force indicating devices” [IFIDs] for each and every performatively consequential act of using any natural human language – which he stipulatively resolves by creating a set of language. and can be found widely in contexts that. like “main text” and “footnote. narrowed sense.and cultureindependent basic illocutionary act types fully parallel to the famous Berlin and Kay (1969) Basic Color Terms. cf.” or “text” printed in many “typefaces” or similar diacritics. It thus replaces the traditional comparative and philological goal of translation of culture in my revised. [The anthropological concern] tends to focus on key terms that seem. cf. of the register as a secondary process. delocutionarily. In these structural formulae. 18. 21. See below on anthropological non-translation in these circumstances. to light up a whole way of going at the world. Jakobson 1962 [1959]. the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ represent Noun Phrases or their grammatical equivalents that can be substituted in the respective syntactic positions so as to project ‘Agentive’ readings for X and ‘Patientive’ readings for Y. pronunciations. An indigenous American language spoken by “an important and warlike tribe living in central Texas during most of the 18th and 19th centuries” (Hoijer 1933: ix). in pragmatic metaphor. indexically summon up the affective qualities of speaking with/to children.g. In several places Geertz (1983: 10. notwithstanding the unitary character of the original in its source language. 185) and those close to him in the trend called “symbolic” and especially “interpretive” anthropology celebrate this substitutive transduction as the hermeneutic glory of anthropological accounts of other cultures’ concepts. e. For the time being let us not worry about the fact that in order to translate/ transduce a given expression in a unitary text in a source language it may be necessary to formulate more than one type of expression in the target language in some complex textual organization of partials. 1971. when their meaning is unpacked. Ferguson and DeBose 1977). Transduction. The register’s lexical forms and even its other formal aspects frequently become. endearment. talk between lovers.

Michael Silverstein ethnographic text. The ethnographic text thus becomes interpolated (interpellated, too!) between at least the indexical value of the source-language word or expression and our ability to understand its conceptual value. Now much in the way of such “interpretive” ethnographic description consists of describing those very contexts in which the term occurs. So the ethnographic reader’s sense of the “meaning” of such a term, via this Geertzian “unpacking,” is at best (in the most elaborate and sensitive “unpackings”) its rules of illocutionary use, not, in fact, its original denotational meaning or its indexical characteristics! (See here Searle [1969: 136–41] on “the speech act fallacy” about the ‘meaning’ of words and expressions.) Hence, it would seem, merely the “thickness” of the transductional co(n)text provides the basis for and measure of the success of this attempt in place of “translation” or even our more narrowly drawn translation-with-transduction. Geertz and others have very much stressed the locally “unpacking” mission of interpretative ethnography, eschewing translation of the local into cross-culturally generalizing metapragmatic descriptors on the one hand or into other local terms in a natural target language. This angers scientistic types like Dan Sperber (1996: 32–59), who would hold up to anthropology as a “science of the social” the necessity to determine the latter by the former (eschewing transduction and transformation in our senses). 22. An “untranslated” term incorporated into the comparative and theoretical discourse of anthropology turns any textual occurrence of the originary form in some source language into a mere ethnographic instance once more, labeled by the (borrowed) term in question ultimately only as the prototype instance [think of taboo?] of the theoretical concept in question. Here, the originary word or expression takes its place as part of a translational set along with all other instances of such-and-so phenomenon in one or another society. By making such a move one does, in fact, reintroduce the task of having to translate the original term in our sense, by growing it a theoretical semantic meaning as well as an ethnographic-descriptive one. But note that the borrowed term in such comparative and theoretical discourse has a meaning different from those of either the source original or any target translation in any other natural language. 23. There are immense literatures on each one of these languages and their systems of stratified lexical registers, which are similar to each other as indexical systems in many interesting ways. The most semiotically astute treatments in modern terms are Errington’s (1988) of Javanese and Agha’s (1993, 1998) of Tibetan. See also Agha 1994 for an overview of these systems in the larger area of “honorification,” and Irvine 1995, 1998 for an analysis of the relation of cultural ideologies of honorification to the semiotics of how the indexical systems operate. – 100 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation 24. English essentially lost the inherited and comparable thou/ye system by the end of the seventeenth century; see Silverstein 1985: 242–51 and refs. there for the explanation of its final slide into desuetude. 25. A postmodernist “Translation Studies” would debunk any pretensions to systematic grounding of “translation” by showing how the enterprise always already involves necessary transformation, let alone transduction, not to mention that the transformations are in the direction of power over/through terms in the target regime of discourse. As one says qua scientist to “Science Studies,” so what? The point is not that there is not a route to complete intercultural translation in my narrow sense such that anything goes; the point is that there is some interlinguistic translation, and that there are plausible transductions as well. And that we should be doing them. 26. And of course the wider the electorate, and the longer the time elapsed, the greater the chance that the term has come to be used outside of the technicalprofessional discourse, winding up as a layperson’s word borrowed from language to language, like taboo – which then needs translation all over again when applied to understanding the culture of the place from which it came in the first place! (See n. 22 supra.) 27. One is reminded of the conceptual mischief done by Paul Ricoeur’s (1971) “model of the text,” unfortunately invoked by Clifford Geertz in very influential contexts, in its metaphorical misidentification of the textual object with acts of “inscription” of text-artifacts! While we do, in fact, create such textartifacts, e.g. manuscript or printed transcripts of oral-aural discursive interactions, the better to be able to study them analytically, given the frailties even of our own human cognitive processing, these artifacts and the way we produce them cannot be taken as a good starting point for the notion of how coherent meaningfulness is achieved in the realtime social events of communicating. 28. A point nicely spelled out some years ago in the lengthy essay, “The Symbol and its Relative Non-arbitrariness,” by Paul Friedrich (1979 [1975]); cf. also Friedrich 1986.

Agha, Asif. “Grammatical and Indexical Convention in Honorific Discourse.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 3, 1993, 131–63. —— “Honorification.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23, 1994, 277–302. —— “Stereotypes and Registers of Honorific Language.” Language in Society 27, 1998, 151–93. Austin, John L. How To Do Things With Words (2nd ed.). Urmson, J. O. and Marina Sbisà (eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1975 [1962]. – 101 –

Michael Silverstein Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Michael Holquist (ed.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981. Banfield, Ann. “Where Epistemology, Style, and Grammar Meet Literary History: The Development of Represented Speech and Thought.” In Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics. John A. Lucy (ed.), pp. 339–64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993 [1978]. Bassnett, Susan and Trivedi, Harish (eds.). Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. Berlin, Brent and Kay, Paul. Basic Color Terms:Their Universality and Evolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969. Brown, Roger and Ford, Marguerite. “Address in American English.” In Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology. Dell Hymes (ed.), pp. 234–44. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [1961]. Brown, Roger and Gilman, Albert. “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language. Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.), pp. 253–76. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1964 [1961]. Casagrande, Joseph B. “Comanche Baby Language.” In Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology. Dell Hymes (ed.), pp. 245– 50. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [1948]. Clifford, James. “On Ethnographic Authority.” Representations 1(2): 1983, pp. 118– 46. Crapanzano, Vincent. “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description.” In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (eds.), pp. 51–76. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986. Croce, Benedetto. Aesthetic As Science of Expression and General Linguistic. Trans. Douglas Ainslie. London: Macmillan & Co. 1909; 21922. Dil, Afia. “Bengali Baby Talk.” Word 27, 1971, 11–27. Errington, J. Joseph. Structure and Style in Javanese: A Semiotic View of Linguistic Etiquette. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988. Ferguson, Charles A. “Baby Talk in Six Languages.” The Ethnography of Communication. John J. Gumperz and Dell H. Hymes (eds.), pp. 103–14. American Anthropologist 66(6), part 2, 1964. —— “Absence of Copula and the Notion of Simplicity: A Study of Normal Speech, Baby Talk, Foreigner Talk, and Pidgins.” In Pidginization and Creolization of Languages: Proceedings . . . 1968. Dell Hymes (ed.0, pp. 141–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. —— “Baby Talk as a Simplified Register.” In Talking to Children: Language Input and Acquisition. Catherine E. Snow and Charles A. Ferguson (eds.), pp. 209– 35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. – 102 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation Ferguson, Charles A. and DeBose, Charles E. “Simplified Registers, Broken Language, and Pidginization.” In Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. Albert Valdman (ed.), pp. 99–125. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1977. Friedrich, Paul. “The Symbol and its Relative Non-arbitrariness.” In Language, Context, and the Imagination: Essays of Paul Friedrich. Anwar S. Dil (ed.), pp. 1–61. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1979 [1975]. —— The Language Parallax: Linguistic Relativism and Poetic Indeterminacy. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1986. Geertz, Clifford. Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Basic, 1983. —— Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Gentzler, Edwin. Contemporary Translation Theories. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. Grice, H. Paul. “Logic and Conversation.” In Studies in the Way of Words, pp. 3– 143. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989 [1967]. Griffiths, Paul E. What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Hinton, Leanne, Nichols, Johanna, and Ohala, John J. “Introduction: Soundsymbolic Processes.” In Sound Symbolism, pp. 1–12. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Hoijer, Harry. Tonkawa, An Indian Language of Texas. Extract from Handbook of American Indian Languages, vol. 3. Franz Boas (ed.). (Separately paginated.) New York: Columbia University Press, 1933. Irvine, Judith T. “Honorification.” In Handbook of Pragmatics. Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman, Jan Blommaert, and Chris Bulcaen (eds.). S.v. Separately paginated, pp. 1–22. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995. —— “Ideologies of Honorific Language.” In Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Bambi B. Schieffelin, Kathryn A. Woolard, and Paul V. Kroskrity (eds.), pp. 51–67. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Jakobson, Roman “Why “Mama” and “Papa”?” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 1, Phonological Studies, pp. 538–45. The Hague: Mouton, 1962 [1960]. —— “Signe zéro.” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 2, Word and Language, pp. 211–19. The Hague: Mouton, 1971 [1939]. —— [Concluding statement:] “Linguistics and Poetics.” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 3, Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. Stephen Rudy (ed.), pp. 18–51. The Hague: Mouton, 1981 [1960]. Jakobson, Roman and Waugh, Linda R. The Sound Shape of Language. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979.

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Michael Silverstein Kripke, Saul A. “Naming and Necessity.” In Semantics of Natural Language. Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman (eds.), pp. 253–355. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1972. Lee, Benjamin. Talking Heads: Language, Metalanguage, and the Semiotics of Subjectivity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997. Lucy, John A. Grammatical Categories and Cognition: A Case Study of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1992a. —— Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992b. Morford, Janet H. “Social Indexicality in French Pronominal Address.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 7, 1997, 3–37. Murphy, Gregory L. “Personal Reference in English.” Language in Society 17, 1988, 317–49. Parmentier, Richard J. The Pragmatic Semiotics of Cultures. [Special Issue.] Semiotica 116(1), 1997. Putnam, Hilary. “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’.” In Philosophical Papers, vol. 2, Mind, Language, and Reality, pp. 215–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975. Quine, Willard V. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960. Ricoeur, Paul V. “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text.” In Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation. John B. Thompson (trans. and ed.), pp. 197–221. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1981 [1971]. Sapir, Edward. Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1949 [1921]. Saussure, Ferdinand de. Cours de linguistique générale. Charles Bally and Albert Sèchehaye (eds.). Lausanne and Paris: Payot & Cie, 1916. Schwartz, Stephen P. (ed.). Naming, Necessity, and Natural Kinds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977. Searle, John R. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. Silverstein, Michael. “Language and the Culture of Gender: At the Intersection of Structure, Usage, and Ideology.” In Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier (eds.), pp. 219–59. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1985. —— “Cognitive Implications of a Referential Hierarchy.” In Social and Functional Approaches to Language and Thought. Maya Hichman (ed.), pp. 125–64. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1987. —— “Of Nominatives and Datives: Universal Grammar from the Bottom up.” In Advances in Role and Reference Grammar. Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. (ed.), pp. 465–98. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1993. – 104 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation —— “Relative Motivation in Denotational and Indexical Sound Symbolism of Wasco-Wishram Chinookan.” In Sound Symbolism. Leanne Hinton, Johanna Nichols, and John J. Ohala (eds.), pp. 40–60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. —— “Indexical Order and the Dialectics of Sociolinguistic Life.” Symposium About Language and Society – Austin [SALSA] 3: 266–95. (=Texas Linguistic Forum, no. 36 [Austin, TX: University of Texas, Department of Linguistics]), 1996. —— “Whorfianism and the Linguistic Imagination of Nationality.” In Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities. Paul V. Kroskrity (ed.), pp. 85– 138. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2000. —— “Naming Sets among the Worora.” ms.a [1980]. Silverstein, Michael and Urban, Greg. “The Natural History of Discourse.” In Natural Histories of Discourse. Michael Silverstein & Greg Urban (eds.), pp. 1– 17. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Sperber, Dan. Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. Steiner, George. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. 3rd ed. 1998. Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Whorf, Benjamin Lee. “Science and Linguistics.” In Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. John B. Carroll (ed.), pp. 207– 19. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1956a [1940]. —— “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” In LTR. pp. 134–59, 1956b [1941]. —— “Grammatical Categories.” In LTR, pp. 87–101. 1956c [1945].

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Part II Specific Applications .


rather. designed to illuminate how and for what the words are used. deprecatingly suggest that the language of the other is so different.) But what else can we do? – 109 – . This is a commonsense approach – but it fails to ask whose common sense is being invoked. But in fact this position. in this sense. we make translation the key metaphor of our reporting. that we cannot really translate at all. Our descriptions. just as we do in our own everyday lives. so exotic. is ultimately impossible. And so the central paradox emerges: the plausibility of our accounts depends on a device that is itself predicated on an imaginative act of empathy with informants. It is. and yet we know that translation. For most ethnographers. if only by affectation. Whorfian extremists. as John Leavitt (1996) has observed.– 4– The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable: Representations of Untranslatability in Ethnographic Discourse Michael Herzfeld Problems of Translation My title paraphrases Oscar Wilde’s memorable description of an English gentleman hunting a fox. translating local terms as though they had stable meanings is intellectually indigestible. like comparison in Evans-Pritchard’s famous adage. We write as though we deduced those intuitions from regularly occurring actions and contexts. is not an affectation at all. We all engage in this fiction. even those of us who believe that psychological inner states are neither attributable to whole populations nor even safely identifiable in individuals write our best ethnographic vignettes as though we could do both those things. The act of translating terms-in-context is a useful fiction because it suggests that we can identify the meanings that social actors intend. We translate by declaring the terms untranslatable. the simple fact that. and similarly keep guessing at them. without which ethnographic description would be impossible. viewed pragmatically rather than referentially. We are all. yet we cannot dispense with it – any more than we could survive without reifying the categories of ordinary social life. (Greek shepherds and peasants say much the same thing about knowing other people’s intentions.

There are those who view all anthropology as a form of translation. Instead of dealing with translations as devices of art for the purpose of releasing the text from its dependence on prior cultural knowledge. In this context. by contrast. if closely related. And so the ethnographer. engaged in a project that requires some degree of understanding of what translation entails. the late classicist Philip Vellacott. sometimes with contextual information that shows the extent and variety of observed variation. this charming conceit is at best an impracticable dream: imagine thousands of anthropologists all “set down” in the coral reefs of the Trobriands.Michael Herzfeld Here I shall argue that the difficulty disappears if we treat ethnographic translation and literary translation as two different. and their choice of key terms veers between expressions of modest uncertainty about the validity of their translations and implicit but unmistakable claims to epistemological authority. Following Gregory Bateson (1958: 1) and Michael Jackson (personal communication. everything is at the level of collective representation because even highly individualistic acts are usually mentioned for the light they shed on communal values or on the scope of deviation. Crick 1976. anthropologists are. but does describe innermost thoughts (see Herzfeld 1997b: 23). My old mentor. enterprises. In the case of ethnography. as a literary translator would do. willy-nilly. their discourse is littered with attempts at contextualization of the kind that would drive any lexicographer to despair. has to devise means of making the trip seem quite unnecessary – to be an authoritative guide to the reader. ethnographic translations are attempts to explain the cultural knowledge that local actors bring to their interpretations of each other’s actions. Their access to key data is through languages of which they have variably competent understandings. – 110 – . returned home and writing up. Geertz 1973) or contest that characterization as expressing a hegemonic relationship with the world (Asad 1993). I subscribe to the view that the major difference between these two representational genres concerns their management of psychological explicitness: a novelist usually backgrounds all the formal cultural principles that the ethnographer would want to spell out. Meanings are given as though they were largely constant and predictable. But whether they view ethnography as a practice of translation (Beidelman 1970. The very choice of marginal communities – and sometimes of marginalized viewpoints within them (Steedly 1993: 31) – is often a strategic and methodological device with which to explore the very forces that decide what is marginal or central. to specify cultural principles. cited in Herzfeld 1997b: 24). In an ethnography. This has to do with the difference between ethnography and fiction at the most basic level. the translation of local terms is an attempt. once wrote that the purpose of a translation from the (ancient) Greek was achieved when the reader threw it away and began to learn the language of the original (1954). however flawed.

much more significantly. given the hegemonic construction of modern Greek identity under the shadow of foreign models of its ancient predecessors. The problem becomes especially intractable when what is to be translated is itself the language of intentionality and – 111 – . I shall try to deal especially with what I consider to be two central issues: first. as an ironic shadow for those who instead can still mimic its orotund pomposity. translation offers both the only logically available means of communicating Greek culture to outsiders and a guarantee that such communication will be severely limited. the intractable problem of intentionality as this is related to etymological history. First. I shall especially take advantage of the fact that. Why Greece? The ethnography of Greece is extremely suggestive for our present discussion. Indeed. If modern Greece holds up a looking-glass to the discipline that shares with it a history of elaborating the meaning of “the West” (Herzfeld 1987). its language enshrines many of the most piquant paradoxes of its dual role as incarnation of Hellas and orientalized land of unredeemable marginality. the politics of translation (as well as transliteration). and in a related vein. it is something of a test case for Asad’s gloomy dismissal of translation as the key to anthropological understanding: is the power of the dominant models of Hellas so great as to render our attempts to decipher the modern culture irretrievably Sisyphean? Or might it be that a determined appeal to Greek frameworks that do not hew to the official line could destabilize precisely those after-effects of Enlightenment intellectual despotism? Second. as I have primarily worked in various forms of modern Greek to date. and second. I am dealing with a language with a richly documented past.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable In this chapter. yet it continues to appear as the discourse of the unfashionable political Right and. it is never quite clear what “its” language really is. katharevousa (see Ferguson 1959). was officially abolished over two decades ago. A third point again concerns intentionality: if the Greeks themselves generally hold a skeptical view of the possibility of deciphering psychological inner states. The “high register” of its diglossic pair. I propose to explore these issue by discussing the representation of “other meanings” in ethnographic description. in a country where one of the defenses against external hegemonies consists in arguing that the Greek language is impenetrable to foreigners. the modern Greek language presents a particular set of epistemological issues for the critical ethnographer. I shall approach this from two angles. that of my reading of colleagues’ and predecessors’ attempts and that of my own difficulties as I moved among different genres. how far does the very idea of translation violate their own culturally routinized skepticism? This is a particularly delicate issue because.

this is in part because the English-language term preserves. some elements of the classical and New Testament term pistis. however. with its further implications of a comprehensive. is the uncontrolled sexual attraction that undermines the moral restraints and social decorum of formally arranged marriages. since faith. I may be the only non-Greek anthropologist to have endured a year of classes in strict katharevousa. If. politically charged language play. Herzfeld 1997a: 119). far from being socially – 112 – . and helped me see that rhetoric. the modern Greek version of New Testament “love” (MG aghapi. conceived in a world where what defines a Christian is inherited sinfulness rather than socially innocent sanctity (Campbell 1964: 326. NT agape). What are we to make of the fact that Greek “belief” thus looks further removed from – and certainly more resolutely social than – its classical and religious moorings than do ordinary English usages? Or is this perception simply the effect of a hegemony that claims both the classical and the Christian heritage for a West unprepared to grant equality to its orientalized client state in today’s Greece? These problems are compounded for us by the historical entailment of anthropology as a discipline in the Western project of world domination. the term “belief” cannot serve as a gloss on the collective psychological inner states of other peoples. as Austin (1971) demonstrated in respect of excuses. is taken to be incompatible with doubt (see Herzfeld 1997a: 123). and Greece is. precisely because of its own ambiguous entailment in those processes. it is clear that this is a social representation and begs no questions about actual credence. Although Campbell translates pistevoume as “we believe” (1964: 323). Just how important is this historical connection? On the one hand. Our recognition of this entailment is what makes anthropology today such a strong source of insight into the workings of cultural hegemony. desexualized concept of “love” (cf.Michael Herzfeld inner knowledge. by etymological association. On the other hand. an excellent vantage point for further exploration. Yet few anthropologists now working in Greece know classical tongue or New Testament Greek. They may believe. and almost none of the younger ones have experienced katharevousa as the living fossil it was thirty years ago. but neither can we literally know whether they do nor is it particularly relevant for normal social purposes. here following doctrinal prescription. it is not necessary for a speaker to be consciously aware of language history for an excuse to be socially plausible: the aura of antiquity – what Austin called “trailing clouds of etymology” (1971: 99–100) – usually suffices. as Needham (1972) has argued. and indeed its effects might be dissipated by too analytic an examination of their implicit claims. it is inimical to questioning of any kind at all. Indeed. This prepared me well for today’s constant. those socially recognized as faithful in a religious sense do not depend on actual belief for this reputation. German lieben) (Needham 1972: 42). Since this view of faith undergirds the socially sanctioned reluctance to challenge the honesty of fellow-villagers yet whom one may not trust. moreover.

too. and here the problems become more serious. necessitating a re-examination of how they translated certain terms. that the author is watching out for possible misinterpretations. The consequences of this move conflict with one of anthropologists’ commonest assumptions: that the personal intentions behind declarations of affect or motive are opaque. the recurrence of foreign words serves to remind the reader that no translation is ever perfect. but cf. after which its appearance in the text is routinized and assumed to be semantically stable. and that the author can reliably interpret native speakers’ intentions. But by that same token they also set a pattern that less well-informed successors came to accept uncritically in respect of the prevailing assumptions about meaning and translation. I suggest – ultimately allow us to view the translation of purely linguistic elements from a relatively pragmatic and grounded perspective. could be constitutive of social relations. It is consistent with the detailed logical critique advanced by Rodney Needham (1972. when it was discovered that informants were disobligingly apt to use terms in ways that were not predicted by “the kinship terminology” (see especially Karp 1978). Rather than playing a deliberate game of deception. Many anthropologists provide glossaries of key terms or insert such terms with one-on-one translations in the main texts of their ethnographies. Thus. so that all the anthropologist can do is to record the representations of such inner states and observe people’s reactions. where the semantic instability of brief encounters is rarely a serious issue. the idea that economic categories would permit the conflation of local practices with national legal norms has obscured the long-standing resistance to the institution of the dowry in precisely those communities where this stereotypically “traditional Greek custom” has been most vividly present. these first ethnographies (Campbell 1964. Heelas and Lock 1981. ethnographers have elaborated a device derived from philology and history. the late Harry Levy. The purpose of providing original terms is a double one. provide us with rich details that – as in all good ethnography. Cohen – 113 – . Of the first two major English-speaking ethnographers of Greece. it allows a kind of shorthand referentiality: the reader is first educated into the significance of the term by “seeing” it used in a set of diagnostic contexts. I came to believe that any description of social structure and cultural form would be incomplete without due recognition of this quality. On the other hand. while Ernestine Friedl was accompanied by her classicist husband. This seems to be the basic assumption made by the editors of the three major collections of ethnographic approaches to sentiment and psychology (Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990. Rosen 1995). albeit in very different ways. John Campbell also knew the classical language before he went into the field. one that many Greeks themselves explicitly described. On the one hand.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable epiphenomenal. Analogously. Both writers. That this was not altogether wise perhaps first became apparent in kinship studies. Friedl 1962) constitute sites of linguistically well-informed analysis.

That subjectivity is always “about” something collectively presumed to exist (Jackson 1996: 29). Just 1987). any more than they should regard the stories themselves as unmediated and disinterested accounts of ‘real’ experience” (1993: 37). And translation depends on a recognition of that commonality. . in other cultural settings. I am. I am not ignoring the fact that they “conflate” semantic and social meaning. . Meaning implies intention. with its underlying “folk theory. we should really be asking what the speaker “meant” – that is.” which they indicate by their discussions of the concept of simasia. whether or not they agree about its significance. intended – by it. That position makes perfectly good sense in the context of an academic world that seeks forms of pure reference. trying to learn something from.g. Thus. makes very little sense. 1997a). in a lucid statement that captures the pragmatic necessities entailed in the task of translation. but knowing what it does entail should help us understand how the absence of any such recognition can coexist with actions that appear to presuppose intentions and motives – the attribution of venality by people who claim one can never read others’ minds is a case in point. conflates semantics (“this word means X”) with social importance (“that action doesn’t mean anything”) (e. Ethnographers are social actors too. and one basis of their intersubjective relationship with their informants lies in the similarity of the translational tasks in which both are continually involved. when I interpret Cretan shepherds as having a “theory of meaning. this striking difference from both our own referentialist assumptions and those of the Greek bureaucratic state (see Herzfeld 1985a. fractured though its image must be through the uneven glass of our instruments of perception and reproduction: as Mary Steedly writes of her translations of her informants’ narratives.Michael Herzfeld 1994. and about.” Such a theory may not recognize or privilege intentionality at all. “readers should not mistake these representations of others’ speech for the actual presence of other voices . To what extent should we isolate semantics from other kinds of meaning? There are those who would prefer to separate the two kinds of meaning (which I am presenting here as fundamentally of a single kind) in the same way that they object to the identification of a local theory of meaning that. But it potentially sidesteps an important issue. when we ask what a word means. We would do well to pay close attention to ordinary-language usage here. But the separation of meaning from context is grounded in a cosmology that. Leavitt 1996). Only the compiler of a socially decontextualized lexicography could entertain the possibility of meanings divorced from actors’ intentions. instead. from their perspective. and it is a fair reflection of many folk theories as well. then at least social actors agree on the existence of something subjective. I also remain unimpressed by the argument that these shepherds have taken the term simasia from formal (and partly katharevousa) discourse: their ability to use simasia for a very different understanding of meaning than that of the learned writers from whom they may indeed have indirectly – 114 – . For if inner life can be represented.

For it suggests that if we know what a word or phrase means (as opposed to what So-and-so means by it). It occludes the possibility of intentions other than those sanctioned by the official semantics – or. confuses performance with intent. sense of the limits of referentiality. The stated theory may be at odds with actual practice. The assumption of referentiality has particular resonances in the Greek context. since the British scholar addressed questions of historicity both within his ethnographic writing and. One may declare that it is impossible to read another’s mind. the possibility of a total absence of conscious intention altogether. cf. (These shepherds are adepts at turning the mechanisms of state against officialdom. as this might be taken to mean that the early ethnographers of Greece were guilty of the ahistoricism of which Evans-Pritchard has been accused (see Rosaldo 1986: 93. A referential representation of meaning. at the same time. A word of caution is in order. on the referential meaning of “statements. however. Indeed. by extension. fixed in time as well as form. but one can also. Although few classicists today take a narrowly referential view of meaning. as when they make police officers eat the meat the shepherds have just stolen and then inform their guests that the latter have just consumed the evidence!) Indeed. and the theory informing the practice may entail a rejection of the stated principles.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable borrowed the term itself supports their. all this shows that claims about intentions are key elements of social performance even when generalizations about intentionality seem to preclude the very possibility. But let me return briefly to intentionality here. This is where a referential view of language especially fails. although his selfdeprecation does at least enable us to extract a clear sense of how the unequal terms – 115 – . try to read it. and my. indeed. Thus the use of standardized translations and a classical mode of transliteration obliterates the play of actors’ perhaps quite divergent intentions in favor of structural unity and images of social stability and equilibrium. Fabian 1983: 41). This harmonizes with the nationalist image of a classical culture that has undergone frequent distortions but that will be fully reconstituted today – a premise few Greeks seem to accept! The use of transliteration systems that recall the classical alphabet reinforces that referential illusion and lends ethnographic texts a spurious semantic stability. Even for Evans-Pritchard the charge is partial. perhaps most notably. we can rely on the constancy of that meaning wherever it appears – and. they deal with texts for which there is usually assumed to be an original version (Urtext). in a well-known essay on the relevance of history to anthropology (Evans-Pritchard 1962: 46–65). or at least make attributions of motive that suggest that possibility. But Evans-Pritchard still frames his account as though the larger context of power were secondary. it is the apparent transparency of official-sounding words in everyday speech that makes ethnographic translation such an interesting issue.” as opposed to their performative force (whether intended or not) – an insight central to Austin’s entire philosophy. even if contextualized. as Fabian (1983) in particular acknowledges.

and it suited her insistence that she did not want to deal with the classical past except. both Campbell and Friedl were acutely aware from the start that they were operating in a cultural space where history was the object of an intense political struggle over the definition of the past. a historian as well as an anthropologist. But it may have overdetermined some subsequent readings of his work. briefly (1962: 106). however. in a paradox reminiscent of many origin myths (see Drummond 1981. transliteration sets a key for knowledgeable readers’ response to the translations that accompany it. paid to their sense of the past and its relationship to encompassing geopolitical struggles that still continue. Nonetheless. Friedl’s method was perhaps ideologically more neutral. more passively. 307).Michael Herzfeld on which he confronted the Nuer affected both his methods and the results he obtained by them. together given it birth and assured its survival under conditions of constant surveillance. and that those who lacked this knowledge would probably not care. It would have made little sense to do fieldwork in even the most illiterate Greek community – and the Sarakatsani perhaps qualified for that title – without the regard that Campbell. Moreover. I have dwelt on the issue of transliteration at some length because the politics of transliteration often gets short shrift in discussions of ethnographic representation. while Friedl (1962: 106). Perhaps in part because of the symbolic importance of Greece in the constellation of European history. and because in the Greek cases we have one of the ideologically most sensitive fields for considering the issue. which foreigners saw as corrupted by Turkish and Slavic influence and as evidence that the Greek people – 116 – . notes that the inhabitants of the village where she worked had learned to invoke classical mythology as a keystone for their national identity. Friedl (1962) adopts a modern phonemic transcription method – a device that was not followed by most subsequent writers on the ethnography of Greece for some twenty years or more thereafter. Campbell opted for using the Greek alphabet. Modern Greece was fundamentally a land created as a reincarnation of ancient Hellas. old habits die hard. to mention the villagers’ awareness of it – her book is significantly subtitled A Village in Modern Greece – but it meant sacrificing the etymological sensibility of Campbell’s writings. For many Greeks the links with the ancient past. now made obedient to its modern descendants – the western Europeans – who had. and rarely notes evidence that certain terms were almost certainly reintroductions via the standardized national language. Leach 1961). Campbell pays particular attention to the nationalist arguments over the origins of transhumant groups in the region (1964: 1–6) and documents shepherds’ awareness of their antecedents in the War of Independence and the way they learn this awareness in their childhood (1964: 2–3. Campbell’s approach was appropriate in a context when he could safely assume that many educated readers had enough ancient Greek to make the national alphabet the appropriate medium.

which removed one of its most visible but phonetically least justified resemblances with ancient Greek. I shall now examine some of the translations encountered in Campbell’s and Friedl’s work. under these conditions. and that was now supposed to dissolve – leaving only a suggestive residue – in the goodwill created by the new relationship. Karakasidou 1997). Words at the Wedding: Sarakatsan Agonism Campbell’s description of wedding practices remains unmatched. When he wrote. Friedl. Thus the politics of language choice – including questions of transliteration – was also a politics of temporality and cultural identity. and there was little discussion of issues that the rise of sociolinguistics in the same decade was to invest with central importance. These early ethnographers were. had not yet occurred. – 117 – . that he provided the detailed assessment of shifting contexts that we encounter in his ethnography despite the lingering flavor of a classicizing philology. and will conclude with some examples from my own attempts to grapple with these issues across a wide spectrum ranging from Cretan shepherds to a cosmopolitan if traditionalizing novelist – whose work poses special challenges for potential choices between “literary” and “literal” (or “ethnographic”) translations. When he did his fieldwork. turning thereafter in much the same vein to some more recent studies. too. that women tended to use the Turkish names of local communities that had been given Greek names by the state authorities. the Sarakatsani still engaged in highly ritualized enactments of the mutual hostility that normatively governed relations between the two groups being affinally conjoined. apparently because their relative lack of engagement in the public sphere sheltered them to some extent from knowledge of official changes (1962: 7. although she recognizes points of language that have subsequently become highly important in the confrontation between social anthropology and Greek nationalist historiography – notably. It is all the more remarkable. the “monotonic” reform of Greek. Under these circumstances. Campbell found Romanian claims on the Sarakatsani and their territories absurd because they were based on bad philology and bad historical method.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable belonged to the European past rather than the present. whose ethnography was written for a less specialist audience in a country where a much smaller percentage of her readership could be expected to decipher the Greek alphabet. cf. in general terms. actually seems more innocent of the ideological issues. faithful to the philhellenic vision. to deal instead with non-Greek-speaking minority groups in Greece. he did not have to deal with similar problems in Greek historiography as he probably would have been forced to do had he decided. as some of his successors chose. the choices made by ethnographers could not but be ideologically fraught. were their sole inalienable lien on modernity.

for a Sarakatsan shepherd to absorb formal phrases from the radio or even from someone with a smattering of grade-school education. causing the bride’s party to – 118 – . and some – notably epistrofi. all the other terms are in standard Greek. which uses generic Epirot dialect forms. Campbell’s description. and is embedded in a detailed account of the ideology whereby marriage provides the balance against the atomized. a ritual exchange object (the special loaf of bread known as the “bread of the bride”).Michael Herzfeld There is a pattern of such transformations of negative into positive affect (or at least reciprocity) in Greek society generally. and the term for a married couple (1964: 132–138). In this description. Campbell offers us a way of making sense of a society in which aggressive overtures may be a prelude to violence but may also be a means of creating mutual respect and alliance. By thus conjoining a description of ritual form with an explanation of Sarakatsan ideas about the quality of social relationships. Their obvious association with the learnèd elite enhanced their local prestige within the local community while bringing it more firmly within the state’s cultural embrace. Campbell. It is interesting. conventional greetings shared by the two groups of new affines. He notes the terms for the affinal relationship itself. he inserts relatively few Greek expressions. first of all. This mixture of terms establishes early on the absurdity of treating local and official usage as hermetically discrete entities. In accordance with Ferguson’s (1959) model. the term for the five young men who ride ahead of the groom’s party that goes to claim the bride from her parents. a formulaic expression in which the bride’s male kin ritualistically object to the groom’s kinsmen’s first attempt to take the trousseau away with them. He does not provide the original of the phrase “We shall wait for you. as a sensitive ethnographer. “return” – may be relatively recent importations from official language. the act of “return” (the bride’s first visit to her natal home with her new husband and his close male kin). to note which of the terms Campbell chose to translate are given in Greek.” uttered in anticipation of the bride’s “return” visit. agonistic quality of most social relations in this society. did not accept the idealized picture that accompanied such formalism – as we see in his detailed descriptions of social tension (for example. is methodical in its description of the ritualized stages of this process. a song in which the groom’s kin declare their good intentions and their admiration for the hospitality they have received from the bride’s natal family. the decay of the diglossic structure of Greek – hastened by its association with the military regime of 1967–74 – resulted in a “mixed” idiom spoken more or less by all Greeks. It would not have required much literacy. All the other terms I have mentioned here are given in Greek. which set the model for my own explorations of the ways in which reciprocal animal-theft led to alliances between shepherds. even in the late 1950s. and he gives the text of the song of praise in a footnote. when a rainstorm breaks out. With the exception of the song.

and this ethnographic illumination thus effectively counterbalances the formality suggested by Campbell’s choice of translated words and phrases as significant. so redolent of what Campbell identifies as the fundamentally agonistic quality of Sarakatsan life. Campbell’s awareness of the history of the Greek language and his own delicate sense of nuance allowed him to preserve in this.” which he simply paraphrases in English as “in-law trouble. Indeed. erupts into the text as one irrepressible local voice. But he does not spell this out. and its arrival on the scene created. a strong sense of the play of formality and adventurism that is so characteristic of these rather rebellious citizens of a bureaucratic state that in turn treats them with considerable disregard.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable demand her immediate return home while the groom’s party responded with a fusillade and the irate response that it would be unlucky for the bride even to look round at her parents’ home). Such descriptions show that even the most formal norms and cosmological precepts are elements in a complex process of negotiation. apparently a commonly heard one.” Doubtless for the purposes of his ethnography this seemed sufficient.” to avoid an actual – 119 – . The phrase breaks the otherwise unruffled surface of formality on the one side and bucolic innocence (portrayed in the song) on the other. With only minor variations. and a reader who knew no Greek would only get part of the picture. he allows us to see how the choice of linguistic forms actually helps to determine or perpetuate the quality of social relations. The one Greek phrase that Campbell reports from the less prepossessing side of social relations is the phrase for “the affines have got into a fight. It can hardly be coincidental that this phrase. emphasizing both the unequal use of “pronouns of power and solidarity” (Brown and Gilman 1960) and the political and economic inequalities that these asymmetrical usages index. That such events are common is clear from his description. one of the most central segments of his book. At the time when he was writing there had been very little sociolinguistic work of any sort on Greece. a division of labor that was ultimately harmful to the study of both society and language. especially of the extent to which bystanders are usually “uncharitably amused” by such intimations of discord (1964: 137). as it did elsewhere. as with the phrase indexing “in-law trouble. when Campbell describes the interactions between shepherds and educated Greeks. yet it often implies a degree of physical violence (or at least the potential for it) that is not revealed by the gloss. More often than not his invocation of local phrases allows him. that marks dissent in a society that generally does not display to outsiders anything that might redound to its collective discredit. what I have said about Campbell’s use of Greek in this passage applies to the whole book. For it entrenched the idea that language use was epiphenomenal – whether to social relations or to our knowledge of “the language” – and so obscured the role of linguistic politics and ideologies in the management of everyday relationships.

thereby giving a specifically theological as well as social depth to their morality. 1956) than it did that of Peristiany. but to give us instead a contextualized account of how a word or phrase is used and interpreted. by extreme example. – 120 – . Evans-Pritchard (1940. Campbell’s work contributed to the debate precisely because it showed that the components of the local morality were specific to a complex cosmology in which these rather dour and not terribly law-abiding shepherds managed to calibrate their view of their social world to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. As a somewhat critical heir – trained by Campbell himself – to the “Mediterraneanist” tradition to which these values were central (see Peristiany 1965). Honorable Intentions? This is especially true in his discussion of terms he glosses as honor and shame. E. In some ways the notion of obligation is more central to the work than that of honor. with its rejection of Radcliffe-Brown’s (1952: 1) insistence on achronic and “nomothetic” descriptions. In this regard his work more closely resembled that of E. There was in fact nothing in Campbell’s book – although he had studied with Peristiany. suggesting that. Campbell thus brought state and local society into a juxtaposition that is far more complex than simply treating the honor code. and although honor was a key word in the title – that required conformity with this paradigm. to its logical conclusion. as some have done (but see Gilmore 1990: 25 for a more nuanced view). Rather. Recognizing this. At no point in his ethnography does he argue that Sarakatsan values are typical of Greece. He makes no self-authorizing claims about the untranslatability of terms but meticulously documents words and phrases that he sees as significant to local actors. The Sarakatsani had no choice but to engage with the ecclesiastical as well as the temporal authorities. let alone the whole Mediterranean region. Campbell thus pushed Evans-Pritchard’s rehistoricizing of ethnography. as a displacement of male humiliation. Campbell does explore the notion of timi in some detail. But they turned the doctrine of Original Sin to their own purposes. Campbell did not so much “translate” the term ipokhreosi into the relatively colorless “obligation” as show how it served to link unstable vertical alliances with politicians to the internal theodicy of Sarakatsan society. I soon found that its generalizing translations obscured rather than illuminated what I encountered in fieldwork.Michael Herzfeld translation. they illuminate the complex relations between state and ecclesiastic authorities and their ideologically loyal but pragmatically insubordinate followers in ways that help us to understand the dynamics of superficially less “exotic” segments of the overall population. with the added twist of a doctrinal tradition at odds with the social practices of his informants.

But this apparent duplicity allows a maximization of both political and moral capital: the voter creates multiple strands of mutual obligation. anthropologists were never much concerned with “typicality” in Greece. we do know that they frequently make claims about having done so. they predicate future actions on an attributed sense of obligation. When Campbell talks about honor. When Sarakatsani or other Greeks gossip about the motives of some miscreant. We have moved here from the sense of honor as a simple gloss on a historically rich English word to Campbell’s sophisticated reading of a term taken from formal Greek discourse and imbued with ideas that represent a local adaptation to ecumenical doctrine. Greeks generally insist that one cannot read others’ minds – but that premise is itself a part of the complex of ideas and practices through which Greeks talk about each other. What is the extent of the shepherd’s loyalty to his patron? I have heard villagers on Crete describe how they will try to engage the services of more than one political patron by splitting the household’s several votes among competing candidates. Even the relatively innocuous duplicity that it entails. Above all what is lost here is the sense of intentionality. The sense of obligation here is tied to a very specific type of transaction and has nothing to do with a generic sense of honor in the abstract. the adjectival term filotimos frequently is applied to specific individuals. Generalized talk of “honor” obscures this dimension and leaves the field open to relatively mechanistic – 121 – . But this ethnographic specificity carries its own traps.” rarely if ever appears in Sarakatsan speech. more generically. however. found throughout Greece. In similar vein. When the term is lifted from his ethnography to bolster arguments about generalized Mediterranean culture. he is describing a Sarakatsan value with a traceable “family likeness” – although one that admits of wide variation (Herzfeld 1980) – that it shares with similar values. does not actually lie to any one of his patrons. “love of timii (honor). it ceases to be the value of the Sarakatsani and becomes reconfigured to fit the analyst’s preconceptions. This is made possible by the deep specificity of the ethnography itself: as Friedl (1976) remarked some years later.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable while the substantive filotimo. they are not contradicting the widely held Greek view that it is impossible to gauge the intentions of another person. The filotimos man is one who observes his obligations: his patron feels he can be trusted to vote in accordance with their pact. is justified in terms of the pervasive imperfection of human society and specifically of the moral community – a concept that Campbell takes from Evans-Pritchard – of the Sarakatsani and. and is insured against excessive reliance on a single powerful figure. They are simply joining in a guessing game that is itself part of the process of making and breaking reputations. We do not even know whether they believe that it is possible to know another person’s mind. It is very much a social arrangement. often marked by roughly the same set of terms. of all Greeks. an unfortunate necessity for poor shepherds forced to depend on rich and powerful outsiders.

Friedl – whose explicit goal is to turn the anthropological focus on a contemporary Western society – is here interested in the – 122 – . Friedl also supplies Greek terms and translations for social categories (such as ritual kin). If certain phrases seem to be repetitious. although Friedl does not mention this. Because the portrait she paints of a proclivity to use clichés frequently rings true for anyone who has spent time in Greece. this is because their constant reiteration provides a means for the villagers to affirm their worldview – a worldview as opaque to individual differences as the villagers are secretive about aspects of themselves. but lacking that sense of tension between the socially observable and the personally ineffable that we find so richly present in Campbell’s distinctly Evans-Pritchardian evocation of the “moral community” – a place of paradox and ambiguity. 87) – implying. spaces that mark important social boundaries (for example. for whose Sarakatsani the relatively recent history of the Greek War of Independence (1821–27) is a living entity. the further impression is created that the referentiality of the socially salient terms is unproblematic. One element that her work nevertheless shares with Campbell’s is the illustrative use of clichés for recurrent situations. Unlike Campbell. Friedl is also a meticulous contextualizer.Michael Herzfeld applications of game theory (e. the hurt “how was I to know?” when it turns out the speaker did not have the right equipment to do a particular job (p.g. 76). ksehazmena) (p. however. “we are wrestling”) that mark a conventional parallel between one’s social relations in an agonistic society and those into which one enters with a harsh and capricious natural environment (Friedl 1962: 75). Her choice of a phonemic transliteration places the community squarely in present time. and the ability to fulfill one’s obligations reveals the impossibility of securely knowing about others’ individual morality even while we depend on being able to act as though we could do exactly that. she implies. and for whom the historical origins of the Sarakatsani themselves shed an interesting light on the Balkan politics of national identity. the excuse that those in authority never educate “us” properly. political commitment (Loizos 1975: 301. Paine 1989) – interesting exercises in their own right. Economic Facts and Fictions Ernestine Friedl’s ethnography (1962) presents relatively few terms in Greek. or the response to inquiries about work (palevoume. but also a place that we recognize: a place where the performance of intention. 2). and social institutions and socially validated objects (such as the elements of dowry and trousseau). Gambetta 1988. such as the reiterated assurance in respect of unpleasantness that “what is past is forgotten” (perazmena. n. the living room of a house and the market area of the village). Despite the brevity of her book.

while Friedl did not discuss this kind of linguistic elaboration (but see Herzfeld 1980). Classicists dislike such transliterations. incorporated into village consciousness through processes that have also fashioned our own uncritical assumptions about cultural continuity. recalling the truly embittering pressure that the dowry system – formally abolished only in 1984 – placed on fathers and daughters. Thus it is significant and salutary that an anthropologist with distinguished access to classical idioms chose instead to adopt a resolutely modernist transliteration. Doubtless her choice of a very ordinary village made such a generalized sense of the past almost inevitable.” we are all the more forcibly reminded that this is an erudite conceit. But it is interesting nevertheless to note how this ‘flat” temporality meshes with the effects of a purely phonemic transliteration system and the array of entirely conventional phrases that adorns the text. so that when Friedl (1962: 106) tells us how the villagers invoke Ksenios Zefs and then has to explain that this is “Zeus. This in turn may lead to some curious assumptions about continuity between ancient and modern social institutions. she is able to acknowledges the Greeks’ acquired pride in the classical past without participating in its nationalistic implications.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable past only inasmuch as she notes the villagers’ highly generalized awareness of classical antiquity through. on precisely these grounds (Pinsent 1986). But these transliterations have the advantage of not begging any questions about possible links with antiquity. Yet we know that Greek villagers do not all act alike. she was one of the first contributors to our awareness of the burdens of the dowry system (see also Skouteri-Didaskalou 1991). As a result. or – 123 – . for some conservative local actors the classical association legitimated the status quo. in consequence. Thus. Although it rests on a matter of fine detail. standard – and ancient – pikra). the conventionality of both the everyday phrases and these invocations of a rather newly acquired historicity mask any degree of individual critique or reaction. While scholars who had a genuine acquaintance with rural practice managed quite explicitly to avoid these assumptions (Levy 1956). “bitterness” (cf. the significance readers will attribute to particular utterances and the larger values and events they metonymically represent. a phonemic transliteration captures the dialect pun conjoining prika (dowry) with its homonym prika. a highly sanitized official rendition. notwithstanding her aversion – which I share – to making claims about typicality. On the other hand. Indeed.” thereby suggesting to the philologically informed the etymologically correct derivation from ancient Greek proix (stem proik-). the patron of strangers. By contrast. the use of a classical and Erasmean transliteration will produce proika for the term usually glossed as “dowry. Indeed. precisely because they conceal potentially interesting etymologies. as she shows. I have myself been taken to task for not using an Erasmean method of transliterating Greek. the impact of choice in transliteration is vitally important because it may determine a whole range of associations and.

Michael Herzfeld evaluate each others’ actions in wholly consistent terms. Campbell – despite more numerous generalized descriptions of what people do at marriage, in a fight or feud, and so on – offers numerous highly individualized vignettes consistent with a society in which eccentricity exists even if it is not always approved: John Charisis who in tearing his shirt to shreds at weddings illustrates the idiosyncrasy known as khouï (Campbell 1964: 45–46), the man who discreetly throws a stone to warn a man beating his daughter that this excessive behavior has gone too far (1964: 190), the father who harangues a scholastically inept daughter without criticizing his wife for comforting her (1964: 157). Such incidents provide agency-sensitive specificity for terms and concepts, rendering purely referential translations increasingly redundant and indeed inadequate. Friedl offers much less of this specificity. Her villagers are by no means flat, lifeless figures; they are simply not so dramatically present. This is in part the result of a difference between the two settings: the Sarakatsani, even if not always fully tolerant of the eccentricity that leads to excess (for which Campbell invoked the term khouï), live in a world of performances both dramatic and aggressive, while Vasilika is a settled agricultural community where calm is highly valued. But in part, too, it reflects the cultural bias of the tradition within which Friedl was writing – a search for configurations (Benedict 1934), or an eidos (Bateson 1958: 220) – that corresponds in its synchronicity to the social structure identified, despite his more processual orientation, by Campbell. Both the choice of what to render in Greek and then to translate, and that of what transliteration or other representation to us, are directly tied to the dominant concern in the anthropology of the 1950s and 1960s, in both Britain and the United States despite the much-touted distinction between social and cultural anthropology, to describe entities and to avoid the methodological individualism suggested by such terms as experience. This was healthy inasmuch as it avoided begging questions about intentionality at the level of the description of everyday norms and characteristic events. But it did of course sidestep a difficult question: Meaning is the result of the agency, not of words, but of the people who speak them; and, if we cannot read their thoughts, how can we actually talk about meaning?

Inclusive Pragmatics
Here the growing influence of ordinary language philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic was crucial on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, Needham (1972) ridiculed the very idea of describing psychological inner states, rather than observing a negotiation of the collective representation of these states. In the United States the rise of sociolinguistics, notably the work of Bauman (1977), Gumperz and Hymes (1964), and Labov (1972), raised new possibilities, including that of rescuing language from its social isolation and bringing its demonstrable performativity to – 124 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable bear on explanations of social and cultural change. Despite now obvious criticisms, all these approaches together created new possibilities for social analysis – especially, perhaps, in those cultures (and I would argue that Greece is one such) in which talk and even linguistic form are subjects of everyday speculation. Perhaps in part because of the centrality of linguistic continuity to the ideological sustenance of their national identity, even relatively ill-educated Greeks often evince a fascination with etymology (especially of toponyms) and the play of neoclassical, demotic, and dialect idioms in the negotiation of social authority and political clout. Such linguistic reflexivity poses especially interesting questions for our discussion of translation, because it indicates, however opaquely, a degree of intentionality that makes the referential illusion that words rather than people “mean” increasingly unsustainable. One criticism of these approaches is nevertheless that they reduce everything to language, text, and performance. I have addressed some of those objections elsewhere (Herzfeld 1997a). Here, let me note that many of the so-called linguistic models (e.g. diglossia, poetics) are in my view wrongly restricted to language (and therefore wrongly considered to be linguistic models) because they reflect patterns observable in a much wider range of semiotic systems, including the entire gamut of social interaction. I should also add that if we can find evidence for semantic inventiveness in seemingly “inert” verbal texts – bits of museologically preserved folklore such as teasing songs that have been snatched from their social contexts and set down in the frozen written form beloved of traditional philologists – then, a fortiori, we should be able to identify in a whole range of activities the effects of agency even if we cannot, in functionalist fashion, divine either the motives or the purposes that may have generated these effects. In this sense, I suggest, we are not translating at all – but we must still try to translate the verbal elements that constantly recur, because these provide us with a pragmatic link between the ineffable elements of social intention and the rhetoric of referentiality that all social science discourse shares with all other forms of social action. Translation is a necessarily provisional device, as Vellacott recognized: it is the first toehold up the slope, but it is emphatically not a substitute for contextual description. It plays a part in ethnographic description – a pragmatic part – but ethnographic description cannot be reduced to it. Even the analysis of folklore texts, properly contextualized, can provide some sense of this. When I was still a student I tried to translate a set of mandinddhes (Cretan rhyming or assonant verse couplets) into English, matching rhyme scheme for rhyme scheme: “I went and found a lonely church and prayed on bended knee,! and I beheld the Mother of God as she shed tears for me” (pigha ke proskinisa s’ ena erimoklisi, k’ idha ti Mana tou Khristou ya mena na dhakrizi). I took these to a well-known poet and translator of modern Greek literature, who offered blunt advice: these were doggerel, the Greek originals were not, and perhaps I could – 125 –

Michael Herzfeld overcome the difficulty by rendering the English in dialect? Discouraged, I took my leave, and – perhaps fortunately – never tried to inflict them on anyone else. In reflecting on this incident now, I am struck by the thought that the advice was in itself an interesting commentary. Most scholars would generally, I suspect, experience less acute social discomfort with using relatively low-status dialects of foreign languages that they already know well in standard or official form than with speaking similarly low-status dialects of their own mother tongues – an act that could all too easily be construed as condescending. At the time I wrote these translations I was beginning to acquire a slight grasp of Cretan, but certainly had no ability to speak any dialect of English other than my own “received” version. Yet what we both shared was a view that these Greek verses were far from trite. Was the solution to the apparent triteness of any rhymed rendition in English through the internal exoticization of dialect? Perhaps my interlocutor was right. The alternative was to avoid rhyme altogether. Yet for me the rhyme scheme was crucial – and it became all the more so when, graduating beyond the analysis of texts for which the social context largely had to be intuited from the internal evidence of the texts themselves, I found myself working with a community of shepherding families in west-central Crete whose members had very decided ideas of their own about the production of meaning – that notion of simasia that I was to be chastised for recognizing as a theory and for “failing” to see that its social import was separate from its semantics. For these people, context was everything, because one could perceive the effects of a particular set of mandinadhes without assuming anything about either intentions or referential meanings – two aspects about which, anthropologically sensitive to a fault, they expressed pervasive skepticism. A rhyme served to give iconic palpability to the sense of “capping” that was considered the main achievement of competitive versifiers – that, and other poetic devices all consistent with a Jakobsonian vision of poetry, but with the added specificity that the “diagrams” these versifiers were producing were iconic of social relations. In particular, rhyme served as a convention for encapsulating antithesis, paralleling (for example) the way in which, at weddings, pairs of men compete in turn to toast the newly-weds and to insult each other in a genial fashion, expressing thereby the tension of a community in which solidarity is predicated on the recognition of mutual aggression and potential hostility. Now it is also true that these verses were couched in a dialect that differed in certain key respects from the national standard language. That language is so hegemonic that the Greek-born copy editor of my ethnography of the village tried to change all my Cretan texts to standard Greek on the grounds that I apparently did not know Greek well enough! So would not a translation into a dialect of English – say, Geordie – not have similarly marginalized my verse translations? Moreover, dialect speakers have their own quiet – or not so quiet – forms of revenge against the domination of standard forms. These devices included, in the Cretan village, – 126 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable expressive liberties taken with grammatical rules, many of them explained in my text (see also Herzfeld 1985b, and doubtless the major source of the copy editor’s linguistic disgust. In the end it seemed advisable to include both highly literal translations and the phonemically translated “originals,” along with as much context as possible. And in providing that context my informants were assiduous, realizing even more viscerally than anthropologists (for these texts were drawn from their own life experiences, after all) that without context there could be no meaning. (It is true that in my first book I rendered a pompous poem by a nationalistic folklorist in archaic English in order to convey something of the flavor – to use the conventional metaphor – of the katharevousa original [Herzfeld 1982: 82]. But here I was moving between two academic universes that were closely linked by historical ties and continuing interaction, so that the Greek – which was partly written in imitation of Western models in any case, syntax and all – was relatively accessible to the devices of translation.) Since the mandinadhes reproduced the forms of social relations, moreover, and since they were also used to negotiate the practical consequences of those relations, they came to play a central part in my ethnography. I was not interested in focusing only on language, as a “linguistic anthropologist” might have done. But I did want to highlight the constitutive role of language in the ongoing relationships among the villagers, and above all the capacity of villagers to enunciate, to acknowledge, and above all to use analogies between the aesthetic economy of speech and the moral economies of other domains such as raiding, sex, and politics. For the absence of much discussion of these issues in most ethnographies was as much of a distortion of Greek social worlds as perhaps my heavy emphasis on them was seen to be. It seemed worth the risk of new distortions – and what description is not skewed? – in order to refocus analysis and rectify the earlier omissions. Such a move, however, moves the problems of translation into an altogether more central place. Translation is no longer just a metaphor for ethnographic labor, to be adopted or rejected according to one’s convictions, but a necessary part of the enterprise. Even if Campbell and Friedl, in their very different ways, had been able to offer and then contextualize glosses on key terms and expressions, their principal contributions lay much more in the description of the contexts than in their actual translations. Yet I would argue that in my greater focus on language issues I have adopted essentially the same tactic as that used, especially, by Campbell, albeit on a much more massive scale. Like him I provide glosses on all Greek terms, then attempt to suggest a sense of the range of contexts in which those glosses would not outrageously violate the villagers’ own understanding of the originals. Since I also believe that the villagers contributed significantly to my theoretical equipment, not solely to the collection of data, I am able to use their exegetical commentaries – 127 –

Michael Herzfeld on the meaning of verbal texts and other social actions alike – indeed, from an Austinian perspective that very distinction looks as absurd as it apparently did to the villagers – as a means of moving my own readers from the role of passive consumers of translation to that of actively engaged interpreters. They may not be ready yet to throw the book into the fire – at least, not on these grounds – but they should already have a vision of village life that is not dependent on my providing them with a purely referential list of characteristics: this is a dowry, this is their creed, and so on. Readers are invited to see the villagers’ use, not only of terms and categories, but also of the entire range of their symbolic universe.

The Writing Effect
The question of intentionality became more prominent again for me when I recently turned my hand to writing an “ethnographic biography” (Herzfeld 1997b). Here I was concerned to use the life and writings of a novelist and occasional historian – Andreas Nenedakis – who had lived and worked in many of the sites of my own ethnographic work, in order to explore the relationship between novels and ethnographies through a comparison of our respective idioms of representation. A significant component of that project was the exploration of the role played by representations of psychological inner states in anthropological analysis and discourse. Following on the suggestive writings of Cohen (1994: 180–191) about the relevance of novels – and aware, too, of Benedict Anderson’s (1983: 32–40) musings on the interrelations among novels, language standardization, and the ostensible routinization of sentiment in nation-states – I worked from the likelihood that novelists’ willingness to portray motives and emotions provided a space for contesting and affirming currently prevailing collective representations of such states of mind. In the reactions of critics and the general public as well as in arguments about genre (fiction vs. history, etc.), one might arrive at a more pluralistic rendition of “culture” than the ordinary ethnographic mode of description usually permits. Hybrid genres encourage hybrid tactics. On the one hand, I found myself translating large segments of Nenedakis’s novels in a manner designed, I hope, to convey accurately my understanding of the original without necessarily being literal to the point of ugliness. On the other hand, in passages where I was discussing Nenedakis’s use of words and ideas, I resorted to a classic ethnographic ploy: implying, in effect, that certain terms simply did not yield to direct translation (a classic translators’ conceit), I expounded at great length on the meaning of such terms as kaïmos, which is usually glossed as “grief.” Now an ethnopsychological classification, given the ultimate irreducibility of terms denoting psychological inner states, must – at least implicitly – be a classification of overt responses and the circumstances to which they are appropriate. – 128 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable If – this is an old chestnut in Greek folklore studies – we can clearly distinguish between performance genres such as “lament/dirge” and “song” (with a subcategory of marriage song), we are making a distinction based on the appropriate idioms for expressing emotion, not on the emotions themselves. We may then perceive a degree of similarity between the formal classification of genres and that of emotions (see Herzfeld 1981). But even this does not mean that we have arrived at an understanding of how speakers of the language actually experience emotions (although, as Leavitt [1996] notes, we may have a pretty good sense of real empathy with them at moments of great crisis or joy). It means that they recognize a homology between presumed emotional states and the genres locally said to be the most appropriate for expressing them. So when Nenedakis describes an emotion, and attributes it to one of his characters, we may feel – particularly if we know the cultural background well – that he probably knows whereof he speaks. When, for example, in his novel about a struggling young art student from the provinces whose lover’s parents humiliate her because she will not bring a dowry into the family (or even a marriage, for that matter), his descriptions of her frantic, jumbled, often agonized frustration are deeply moving (Nenedakis 1976). But since this is a fictional character, the only standard of verisimilitude he must satisfy is a cultural standard of verisimilitude. (Think again of Austin’s [1971] treatment of excuses, which only had to be culturally and socially plausible but not necessarily factually persuasive.) As long as he stayed within that idiom, no one would challenge him on the grounds that “young women do not think that way” – because many of his Greek readers will have heard young women speaking that way (although perhaps too secretively to have made it into the writings of anthropologists thus far!). The student’s voice is also convincing because what it says is not the only kind of self-pity we meet in Greece. It belongs to a whole range of exasperated – and to some extent competitive – victimology (see Dubisch 1995: 212–217). Indeed, it is clear that Nenedakis has often been concerned to explore the feelings of underdogs of all categories, so that the hapless art student serves also as an allegory of the persecuted political Left and of the working class. The idiom of victimization should be rather transparent to any Greek, even a male generally unsympathetic to the social plight of ambitious young women from the countryside – especially as a hitherto dominant strain in the cultural life of the country has been the image of the generic Greek as “underdog,” and as “competitive suffering” is a well-established mode of social interaction (Diamandouros 1994; Dubisch 1995: 214). How can we show that the whining tone of self-pity is both normative and, in its deep cultural resonances, actually interesting? Because he can transcend both his own interests and those he attributes to the rather complaining, dirt-poor student, Nenedakis can project a powerful sense of the idiom that his readers are assuredly able to recognize and appreciate. – 129 –

novelist that he is. It is thus in the construction of the ethnographic biography that I eventually faced the problem of translation as a rendition of intentionality – of meaning as intention. For the positivist. we freeze-frame as reified images of “culture. in the mutually opposed terms of two supposedly irreconcilable epistemological camps. in a field where descriptions make some claims to verisimilitude. leaden phrases dramatically interrupted by painful flashes of vivid memory. they are – like all translations – necessarily imperfect. In this deliberately hybrid genre. to conjure up that extraordinary moment when oppressed Greeks began to realize that the military dictatorship could be resisted and began to sing this song sotto voce. but foreclose none. Ethnographers’ constant reminders that the terms they translate are always ultimately untranslatable presuppose that provisionality: where the translator of fiction may insert unobtrusive aids to understanding. like the social life we study. is often risk-fraught in the extreme: the higher the risks taken. It is the act of translation. these suggest many possibilities. it removes the possibility of falsifiability (Popper 1968: 40). That is why we provide anecdotal examples. he does so by invoking Theodorakis’s haunting song of that name. necessarily provisional. that holds ethnographic description to an honest awareness of its own limitations. I could exploit the limitations of each mode in order to highlight the advantages of the other for any attempt to understand the complex. What is more. For the deconstructionist. For translation. not in spite but because of its precarious provisionality. constantly shifting worlds that.” As for the translations used by ethnographers. For example. intriguingly. and it is I who must by turns invoke its salience ethnographically by describing my own reactions to hearing that song under related circumstances and then spell out the ethnosemantic dimensions of a word that can mean both consuming grief (in part through a folk etymology linking it to “burning”) and the longing excitement of the dedicated enthusiast. for want of a better device. the ethnographer’s aids must obtrude. the crushing boredom of life on a prison island. a setting of a poem about the endless misery of life in an island prison camp. is conveyed poetically and iconically by the dull thud of repetitive. interspersed by moments of extraordinary cruelty. then. the truer to life? – 130 – . it imposes a textual closure that denies the possibility of infinite alternative interpretations. To the contrary. if only because we cannot know exactly what meanings were intended by the original actors. perhaps. I could afford to bring the speculation about inner states that is appropriate to fiction into direct juxtaposition with the ethnographic commitment to recording only observable representations.Michael Herzfeld When Nenedakis writes about emotion. I could do so without having to pretend that novels and ethnographies were the same thing and perform the same labor. must serve as constant reminders that the job is never done even as they seek to achieve that impossible closure. Failure to do so is a failure. When Andreas wants us to understand kaïmos. he usually employs both direct description and the sheer suggestiveness of his prose. Our translations are thus also.

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–5 –
Translating Folk Theories of Translation
Deborah Kapchan

The event of a translation, the performance of all translations, is not that they succeed. A translation never succeeds in the pure and absolute sense of the term. Rather, a translation succeeds in promising success, in promising reconciliation. There are translations that don’t even manage to promise, but a good translation is one that enacts the performative called a promise with the result that through the translation one sees the coming shape of a possible reconciliation among languages. (Derrida 1985a: 123)

In the history of anthropology, Western theoretical perspectives have consistently been privileged over vernacular or folk theories. Although the latter are often objects of interest, they are deemed to possess little explanatory potential, usually because they assume ways of knowing and being incompatible with those of the analyst (Gellner 1970; cf. Asad 1993). What happens when this hierarchy is challenged and folk theories share the status of Western theory? What does an analysis of folk theories of translation, for example, contribute to the anthropologist’s translation of cultural poetics? In order to answer these questions, this chapter examines the folk theory of one Moroccan verbal artist, a storyteller who translates literary texts written in classical Arabic (fusHa, or CA) into oral renditions performed in Moroccan dialectal Arabic (darija, or MA). Through his metanarratives, we are able to ascertain an emergent theory of local translation between languages (CA and MA) and modalities (oral performance and written text) that reveals important junctures in cultural attitudes toward language, aesthetics and the performance of modernity.

The Storyteller in the Age of Information Translating the Written Text in Oral Performance
Storytellers carry us from one realm to another, from the mundane and material to the imaginal and ethereal. Storytellers are translators by definition insofar as the verb “translate” means to “transport” or to make to pass over.1 Traveling from one imaginary world to another, their power lies in their ability to traverse these worlds, somewhat like a shaman, bringing the listener with them. Contemporary Moroccan – 135 –

Deborah Kapchan storytellers apprentice themselves not to the masters of epic memory and meter as in preceding generations, however (cf. Reynolds 1995; Slyomovics 1987), but to books wherein these hybrid tales of diverse and oral provenance have been transcribed and codified into classical Arabic texts. Like public writers, Moroccan storytellers have functioned as brokers of literary culture, acting as bridges between the world of written tales and those of aural imagination. In the diglossic context of Moroccan verbal art this has entailed translating epics from classical Arabic back into oral colloquial Arabic for speakers of Moroccan dialect. Yet the verbal art tradition in Morocco has changed radically in the space of several generations. Whereas the old remember the epic storyteller in the marketplace as a respected and central figure in social life – someone responsible for recounting legends, stories and history to an illiterate audience – the young know these narratives, if they know them at all, through television reenactments and only rarely through books. This is due to the fact that the marketplace as a site of public performance has diminished in importance, replaced by television and other forms of media. It is also attributable to rising literacy rates which render the storyteller’s function as translator less essential. Although the storyteller can still be found in the open air marketplace (particularly in the halqa, the performance space of the market), he has now become something of an anomaly, frequented by the old and the unemployed, an object of nostalgia, appropriated as an icon of Moroccan “folklore” in local and international venues.2 In Morocco there are several languages spoken by overlapping communities: three different dialects of Berber, some French and Spanish, as well as Moroccan Arabic. The latter, a grammatically simplified form of classical Arabic with syntactical borrowings from Berber and vocabulary from both Spanish and French, is one of the dialects most impervious to comprehension by speakers of other Arabic dialects due to the isolation of North Africa, the shortening of its vowel system (vis-à-vis Middle Eastern dialects) and its eventual convergences with other languages (see Heath 1989). Its status as the mother tongue for the majority of Moroccans is unquestionable. Moroccan Arabic is a purely oral communication, a sound system without a written representation.3 It is the language of intimacy, of anger and desire. In the diglossic context of Moroccan verbal art the storyteller translates epics from classical Arabic into oral colloquial Arabic for speakers of Moroccan dialect. The storyteller’s translation of these epics makes these stories local; it is a means of appropriation, in the Ricoeurian sense (1976), whereby a written text discloses itself to another world – in this case a world of orality and affective meaning – thereby creating a third domain, a new world of in-between. The epic stories told in the marketplace in Morocco have long histories in oral tradition. A Thousand and One Nights, the epic of Ben Hillal (al-Hillaliyya) and the story of ‘Antar (al-‘Antariyya) were all originally oral texts, spoken in different languages and dialects, before being written down and codified in classical Arabic. – 136 –

Translating Folk Theories of Translation Unlike the storytellers of even a generation or two ago, however, contemporary storytellers in Morocco do not go through an apprenticeship with a master, nor do they learn their oeuvres through audition and committing formulae and form to memory. Rather, these storytellers buy books, most of them published in Beirut, read them carefully and then translate them to less-literate audiences with different degrees of fidelity. In the following story about storytelling, the raconteur’s explanation of this process reveals much about the importance of style in rendering the affective qualities of language. In the longer narrative he recounts how he learned his craft. It is not through verbal formulae, rhyme or memorization. In fact, it is the inverse of oral formulaic theory proposed by Lord (1960) wherein a poet memorizes a metric and sonic scheme and infuses it with content; here a literate man reads texts in classical Arabic in order to translate them into dialect for his less literate audience. It is a story that involves the translation (of desire, of meaning, of affect) from the written medium to the verbal one, from the high literary language to the maternal language of ‘home’ and from the visual (the text) to the auditory and performative. Speaking of his trade, Moulay ‘Omarr notes:
#1 The storytellers go out m-malin l-qisas kay-khurju between afternoon and sunset prayer f-nus ‘assr l-skhar qrabat l-maghreb. They go out when it gets cool. kay-khurju f-brudet l-hal so people will stay bash bnadem y-g‘ud . . . People have to stay khassu bnadem y-g‘ud and for this the earth needs to be cool for them u ‘la had khas l-‘ard tebred li-hum. The epic teller in Marrakech u mul s-sira lli f-marraksh is behind the Koutoubia [mosque] kayn ura l-kutubiya 5


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Deborah Kapchan
behind the House of Baroud ura dar l-barud, on the side of the cemetery f-janb r-ruda. He, too, recounts from the book. walakin kay-‘awd ta huwa men l-ktab. He reads from the book. kay-qra men l-ktab. In classical Arabic, not in dialect. b-l-fuha mashi b-d-darija. He reads. kay-qra. He doesn’t know how to interpret. ma y-‘arf-sh ma y-‘arf-sh y-shrah. He doesn’t interpret. sh-harh ma ‘andu-sh. He reads from the book. kay-qra men l-ktab. Like now, he holds the book bhal daba kay-shad l-ktab He starts: “Antara Son of Shadded said . . .” y-bda: “qala ‘antara ibnu shaddad . . .” and this and that kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. Those people are used to his telling style dak bnadem daba mddiyn ‘la t-t‘awid dyal-u. They are taken with what he says. mddiyn ‘la dak sh-shi lli tay-gul. Like those here now [in this town] – bahal hadi daba lli hnaya – 20 15 10

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ma n-qdar-sh n-dakhel fi-ha shi haja lli . . . “where the hell did you get that from?” “wayli mnin jibt-i hada?” 35 30 25 – 139 – . . If you start saying something [different]. because if you add something li’anna huwa daba ila dakhelt-i shi haja there are people sitting there kaynin n-nas lli ga‘din m‘a-k they’ve heard it before. ghadi y-gulu l-ak “wa hda flan. You just find old people with him now. ila jit-i t . ila jit-i t-gul li-hum ye‘ni wahed l-haja lli kada. daba kat-lqay ‘and-u huwa ghir sh-shiyab. They have been with him for a long time. . ddau duk sh-shiyab ‘la t-‘awid-u. . mulay h kay-‘awed dak t‘awid dyal-u. li-’anna dau ‘la t‘awid-u. . I can’t add anything that’s not . Those old people are taken with his style. . . “stop sir. In classical Arabic. faytin sam‘in u faytin kada. Moulay Ahmed’s audience doesn’t come to me. la shab mulay hmid ma kay-jiu-sh ‘and-i ana. Now with epics I’m going to . daba s-sira ghadiya . they’re going to tell you. . b-l-fusha ta huwa kay-‘awed ghir men l-ktab. haduk m‘a-h qdam. he tells them just from the book. Moulay Ahmed tells in his style. .Translating Folk Theories of Translation could the audience of Moulay Ahmed come to me? wesh y-qadru shab mulay hmid y-jiu l-‘and-i l-hnaya? No. Because they’ve taken to his style.

just a little.” “fa ‘a‘tihi qadra ma tu‘t-i t-ta‘ama mina l-malh. 50 45 40 – 140 – .. u wahed sh-shwiyya kada and you keep talking. just like food with its salt. don’t [laugh] a lot.” That is. ma t-qawwi. bhal ‘ila t-t‘am m‘a l-malh. . u bast. “perfume it with a little laughter” tay-gul l-ak “wa ‘allil-hu bi-shay’in mina l-mazhi” [CA] “If you give it humor “fa ‘itha ‘a‘tayta-hu l-mizha Then give it just as much as you put salt in food.. don’t . ye‘ni wahed sh-shwiya dyal l-mzah. ma t. .. They say. . just a little laughter.Deborah Kapchan Now they don’t remember the whole epic daba huma ma ‘aqlu-sh ‘la s-sira kamla but when you start talking walakin melli kat-bda nta kat-hdar you start making their memories come alive kat-bda thya li-hum dik th-thakira old memories. You can’t leave what’s written in the book l-ktab ma t-qdar-sh t-khruj ‘l-ih unless you add something funny llah-huma ‘ila zedt-i shi haja dyal d-dhak and simple. u kat-zid tani f-l-hadra. . th-thakira l-qdima.

between imitation and mimesis. despite their being made audible.Translating Folk Theories of Translation If you add too much. u trud-u dariji. you’re stuck. according to Moulay ‘Omarr. Because you have to translate what is there li-’annahu khass-ek t-tarjem dak sh-shi lli kayn. who base their stories on the book but who translate and perform the words in dialect. Here. You talk with people as if you’re talking with [them] ordinarily. literally. t-kallem m‘a l-’insan bhal ‘ila kat-t-kallem m‘ah ‘adi. take place in the mother tongue of Moroccan Arabic. is referred to as allugha in the dialect. as well as an intellective process. here denied to the simple “reading” of texts. and those. if I talk epics with people up there [in the marketplace] daba ana bnadem ‘ila kan t-kallem m‘a-hum tema l-fuq f-s-sira it’s like people see it right next to them. it is recounting. sh-harh ma ‘andu-sh. Of his rival storyteller in the marketplace who reads the classical Arabic word for word he says. if you don’t put enough. Moulay ‘Omarr makes the distinction between representation and performance. Now. Moulay ‘Omarr talks about two kinds of storyteller – those in Marrakech who read from the book in classical Arabic. me. This language. which included a performative. but it is not invested with the more personal and performative elements of the improvisation that. he goes on to say.4 The “style” that Moulay ‘Omarr refers to is the – 141 – . ‘ila qallat-ti l-ih. like himself. You translate it in darija kat-ttarjm-u b-d-darija and transform it into dialect. though closest to the mother tongue.” the proper name. Classical Arabic. his colleague doesn’t “have” (or possess) the art of interpretation. Moulay ‘Omarr’s distinction recalls the Greek meaning of interpretation. the code against which others are marked. he does not consider it interpretation. ‘ila katart-i l-ih wahla. it is “the language. it’s tasteless. representation. bhal ‘ila kay-shuf-u f-bnadem f-l-fas qudam-hum 60 55 In the narrative above. y-ji basel. relating. although reading the text in classical Arabic involves the translation of the written word to spoken utterance. is not interpretable – the storyteller simply reads it.

“you start making their – 142 – . What’s more. Moulay ‘Omarr’s choice of when he will cite classical Arabic and when he will “translate” into Moroccan dialect are motivated.5 classical Arabic is not a foreign language. Whereas Moulay ‘Omarr characterizes the audience for classical Arabic as “old” (which is why they are taken with this style. as it corresponds to old memories). but profitable. He is able to read the classical Arabic. “When you start talking. the memories that live in the body must be respected and reactivated. a customary repetition. a lot of kids. Moulay ‘Omarr’s decision to interpret and perform the text in the mother tongue intead of rendering it word for word is a conscious choice. he says. The translation of one sense into another bespeaks an enfoldment. is comprised of a younger generation : bezzaf dyal d-drari. Moulay ‘Omarr qualifies it as “tasteless” (basel). For Moulay ‘Omarr. however. the tastiness of his product is of great import. t‘awid. As the language of the Qur’an. but subtly maligns classical Arabic style (and his competitor in the marketplace) by himself citing a proverb in classical Arabic (lines 46–48). Moulay ‘Omarr leaves the classical text to enter an imaginative world. it is comprehensible to most Moroccans with even a minimum of religious education in Qur’anic schools (before the French protectorate. literally. “perfume it with a little laughter” tay-gul l-ak “wa ‘allil-hu bi-shay’in mina l-mazhi” [CA] Here Moulay ‘Omarr makes plain the intimacy of the two forms of Arabic (see Herzfeld 1997. They say. a habitual way of doing things. but simpy a higher register. it is not “seasoned”. Where Moulay Ahmed reads the classical text. so the revivifying of their recollections must run true to past course. For a man who trades in words. giving pleasure and nourishment as it does so. a depth – for food is ingested.” kay tkhtaf b-had sh-shi hada. a few years of Qur’anic education was the means to acquiring literacy in Moroccan society. He thus has a much larger audience than his colleague Moulay Ahmed. see Eickelman 1992. related to memory and fidelity. Although the classical Arabic telling qualifies as a style among others.” he says. Synaesthesia – here the blending of words and taste – becomes the criterion for a good interpretation. he says that people are “grabbed by it [his story]. embellishing and appropriating the plot. rather. penetrating the depths of the body. the affect that resides in the mother tongue is not only tasty. Just as the physical comfort of the audience aids in their attention (“the ground must be cool for them”). They inhabit the narrative event fully because of his performance style. translation is of several orders – not simply conveying the literal meaning. Wagner 1993). Furthermore. his performative style – in Moroccan Arabic – is more vivid. an oral rendering. and Chapter 4 of this volume). his audience.Deborah Kapchan Arabic word. but performing the taste of his own translated words.

On the other hand. Moulay ‘Omarr verges on hyperbole.” and this and that kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. By mimicking the classical Arabic style. outside the frame of the quote in classical Arabic Moulay ‘Omarr continues to use what in this region would be considered a classicalized Arabic: kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. .” In other words. however. “used to”) to express the relation between audience and style – the audience is “taken with” the style. Moulay ‘Omarr is specifically referring to its oral rendition. And Moulay ‘Omarr exemplifies this.” Despite his critique.Translating Folk Theories of Translation memories come alive. they have been transported by the translation. Here. Citation practices are common in classical Arabic. for extant memories are recalled and – 143 – . where genealogical delineations of reported speech – who said what to whom – are a common rhetorical strategy used to create textual authority by invoking other texts (cf. there are people who won’t undertand. The double-embedding of citation brings Moulay ‘Omarr’s attitude toward classical Arabic to the fore. he challenges its authority (it doesn’t make people laugh). the spoken text ceases being a mere repetition and is transformed into a successful translation. Moulay ‘Omarr clearly recognizes the necessity of faithfulness to the text (“You can’t leave what’s written in the book”). “and this and that. citing the reported speech of his colleague: He [Moulay Ahmed] starts: “Antara Son of Shadded said . reframed with quotation marks. Moulay ‘Omarr performs his own theory – the high seriousness of classical Arabic must be brought down. and TAN! He starts talking classical Arabic. classical style without laughter and improvisation is tasteless. .” y-bda: “qala ‘antara ibnu shaddad . he starts working and he begins. “Because if you don’t tell it in dialect (darija). Kapchan 1996). his critique of classical style is made by appropriating the style and register itself. old memories. Briggs and Bauman 1992. a written more than a spoken language. that is. Take Moulay Ahmed now. Although talking about classical Arabic. There aren’t many who will understand. He is imitating and thereby mocking the seriousness of his colleague who reads in classical Arabic. Given thus taste and smell. and “perfumed” with laughter. He thus demonstrates his own competence in the two registers of Arabic and well as their interpermeability. .” Time depth is here expressed. Moulay ‘Omarr uses the word mddiyn.” (rather than the more common m‘uluf. It is the performative aspect of Moroccan Arabic that the audience is taken with. In parodying the style of his colleague. . however. “taken with. The quotation marks that he places around his colleague’s words transform the act of mere repetition into one of performance and interpretation.

Deborah Kapchan revivified in their evocation. l-uwal n-qdar n-‘awd-u kamal. on being asked whether he memorized all the epics that he recounts. #2 There’s no one who can remember 82 books. wakha y-kun ‘and-u dmagh iliktrunik ma ghadi-sh y-‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. It’s among the impossible. but after that. Like now. bhal daba. Moulay ‘Omarr answers. ma kayn-sh l’insan y-qdar y‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. min l-mustahil Even if he has an electronic mind he’s not going to remember 82 books. t-ji tani l-dak l-klam l-uwal. Now take my case daba ana had qadiya lli ‘and-i When I read the book for the first time melli kan-kun kan-qra f-l-ktab l-marra l-uwla I begin to read and I mark the important parts – kan-bda n-qra u kan-ershum l-muhim – the important parts that need to be told of the epic l-muhim lli khasu y-t‘awed f-s-sira. Nonetheless. the first [book] I can recall completely. 10 5 1 – 144 – . you go here walakin min ba‘d twelli t-amshi huk you go there u t-mshi huk and you leave the epic here u t-khalli s-sira hna and you go over there u t-amshi l-had j-jih and turn it this way and only then u dawer-ha l-had j-jih u ‘ada come back to those first words.

to physically inscribe. placing a cross. qal‘at qustantiniya. kan-bda n-‘allem ghir dak sh-shi lli huwa muhim. to the second language. by the places where he needs to come out of his affective depths and be attentive to the text.” kat-sharet ‘l “qustantiniya. to mark. to mark with a cross (line 19).Translating Folk Theories of Translation that [part] which takes the epic straight ahead. He reads – already an act of translation. I’LL describe it myself. You mark “Constantine. so to speak. hadak sh-shi ma-‘and-na ma-n-diru b-ih. mahma kat-usel l-wahed l-qsar kan-wasf-u RASS-i. kat-‘alem ‘li-ha. the epidermis. – 145 – . From the Tower of Shitban. dak l-muhim kay-ddi s-sira nishan. bhal had l-qal‘a ‘asmit-ha qal‘at sh-shitban. you mark it.” 25 20 Moulay ‘Omarr marks the surface structure. and ‘allem [root: ‘la ma]. kat-bqa t-‘raf-ha ‘la ‘anna-ha qal‘at sh-shitban. 15 I just mark that which is important. Lines that advance the literary plot are marked for their referential meaning (denken) – the kind that. it’s called the Tower of Shitban. [Concerning] a description of a palace or something bhal dak sh-shi dyal l-wasf dyal had ksar u kada u kada we have no use for that stuff. lends itself to translation because the text as text is effaced. to designate (line 13). like philosophy. and to naming as a self-conscious enactment. to the outer form. and then he marks. Like this tower. The poetry (dichten). they went and got another one – men qal‘at sh-shitban zadu talbin l-qal‘a dyalt kada – the Tower of Constantine. in the form of descriptions. When you get to the part about the palace. He uses two words to describe this: ershim [root: ra-sha-ma]. an x. you get to know it as the Tower of Shitban.

Note that the word for “electronic” is a direct borrowing from the French électronique: Even if he has an electronic mind he’s not going to remember 82 books. “synonymous with [the] confusion”7 that so often characterizes relations of intimacy.’ or translation between two different sign systems (Jakobson 1960). citational. are places of liberty. So whereas it remains unmarked in the written text. a place to be “in. into poetry and gesture. and. ironic.Deborah Kapchan remains unmarked. landmarks upon which he constructs his performance.” If the epic. the next day recounting the stories he saw there. as such. the other playful. Descriptions. he – 146 – . expressive of another world.8 These different languages represent two different emotional worlds that together inhabit the narrative event that Moulay ‘Omarr and other verbal artists in the Moroccan public domain narrate for their audiences: one. substituting Moroccan names and places. between sign systems and genres of affect (as Moulay ‘Omarr does above) the translator moves in a reversible world. The limits of translatability. it becomes marked in the oral rendition – his responsibility. they become the pillars of the story. time-bound and “salty. is often associated with the transcendent quality of “time immemorial. for in challenging the boundaries between languages. to give them an affective home. grounding the interlocutor firmly in time and space. in Derrida’s formulation. authoritative. Moulay ‘Omarr seems not to be intimidated by the change in paradigm.” These two repertoires find recognition in most all male Moroccans old enough to have spent their youth among storytellers in the marketplace. along with its temperate climate. Indeed he began his career going to the cinema at night to watch Indian films. Placenames are also proper names.6 The places that Moulay ‘Omarr marks are proper names. behind the House of Baroud. “the Language” – that becomes marked. wherein memory is conferred to computers. but classical Arabic – al-lugha. that is. wakha y-kun ‘and-u dmagh iliktrunik ma ghadi-sh y-‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. This location. names of places. and are called to life again from the depths of experience for strategic and context-dependent reasons. functions to “emplace” the audience.” this metanarrative about the epic expresses a certain anxiety about the telectronic age. Although modernization in the form of television viewing has diminished his audience and thus radically affected his profession. In Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative it is not only the proper name. like the myth. however. on the side of the cemetery”). official. impermeable to translation. authored and performed by the storyteller himself. Here he moves into his own interpretations. swinging between surface and depth. in the mother tongue. transcendent. In this process of “intersemiotic translation. the storyteller takes responsibility for it himself. It is not gratuitous that Moulay ‘Omarr makes such careful note of where the storytellers in Marrakech hold forth (“behind the Koutoubia [mosque].

The storyteller has no anxiety about changing tradition. There is no question here of fidelity to the text in terms of literal translation. he takes great license with the form of the narrative. Khatibi is inhabited by the desire to translate the limits of the untranslatable. he models his performances on those of the mass media – news shorts. the storyteller is not preoccupied with fidelity. In this. he says (1990: 20). from one modality (written/oral) to another (oral/written). He does not celebrate its failures. 3) fidelity leads to boredom. 4) the power of a – 147 – . rendering it in dialect and making it local. to delineate them and make them recognizable. only instead of reading classical texts. which he takes from the untranslatable elements of the story – namely.” Moulay ‘Omarr’s performances are self-consciously episodic and visual – you see the stories next to you. and not its product. the proper names. Perhaps it is not so much that “the storyteller in his living immediacy is by no means a present force” in contemporary society as Benjamin asserted (1969: 83). he compares them to the evening news – “If you do that ‘news short’. he translated visual plots. events. along with their affective “sense. the permutation of an untranslatable love. that had to be translated without respite.” Conclusion The verbal artist discussed in this chapter is engaged in translation – from one language to another. people gather and sit still and stay.Translating Folk Theories of Translation implicitly employed the same processes of translation that he employs today. as that the genres that the storyteller lives and narrates are changing. places. while innovation responds to the marketplace. There was no exact symmetry between them. From Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative we learn the following about his implicit theory of translation: 1) in the diglossic context of Morocco. Speaking of the second language as a lover. Maghreb Pluriel. 2) although the promise of translation is operative. to the contrary. La Blessure du Nom Propre). It is the process of translation that holds promise. Duplication is not possible. or the foreign lover as language. For him the promise of the reconciliation of languages – the hope and promise that translation is realizable – is an important one. rather there was a kind of inversion. the mother tongue of Moroccan Arabic is preferred as the more performative and affectively powerful medium of expression. When speaking of his performances in the marketplace today. no encounter both vertical and parallel. he shares much in common with Moroccan essayist and novelist Khatibi whose oeuvre theorizes and poeticizes the predicament of the bilingual (see Amour Bi-lingue. to the contrary. he imagines its possibility and embodies his vision. To the contrary. all the while respecting its storyline.

In fourth grade the pupil begins learning French. During 1999. in Greek thought the term hermeneia signified not so much the return. are all dyads that don’t match. “Everyone knows that the term ‘hermeneutic’ has had different connotations throughout its long history.’ Poétique 23). orality and literacy. In the folk theory of Moulay ‘Omarr. by way of exegesis. Classical Arabic texts are part of this performance – the script. Notes 1. the most recent colonialist language. It is an active and prophetic productivity which is not connoted by the – 148 – . a series of performances in Paris celebrated Moroccan culture.Deborah Kapchan performance come from its performative depth – that is. but more the act of extroversion by the voice. it is a language that allows him to reach a larger and younger audience. but that are locked in a relation of permeable and often painful intimacy. Among these events was a reenactment of performances that take place regularly in Jma‘ al-Fna square in Marrakech. a translation is not purely textual. In analysing Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative we learn that his criteria for a successful translation are intimately related to synaesthesia. to the ability of the translator to make words both tasty and odiferous. and storytellers. musicians. the imperialist one. 3. “the permutation of an untranslatable love. the natural instrument of the soul. For the storyteller Moulay ‘Omarr. however. that he nonetheless always holds in his hands. that [must be] translated without respite” – the promise of translation. faire passer in French. representation and performance. its ability to move all the senses and between all the senses (synaestheia). aurally. but it must be performative. olfactorily and gustatorily. Further. Once a pupil attends kindergarten he or she begins learning the literary language – classical Arabic – the language of the Qur’an. the mother tongue is the language of poetic elaboration and description. including herbalists hawking their goods. These senses blend together in the body of the performance as they do in the body of the performer. It represents a deeper engagement with his body and a more superficial engagement with the body of the text. 4. the “Year of Morocco” in France. As Jean Pépin has pointed out (‘L’Herméneutique ancienne. low and high registers of Arabic. For him. 2. one whose memories are not as conditioned by past literary renderings of epic stories. and in sixth grade English. and of all “official” and written texts. so to speak. to a kernal of hidden meaning within a shell. a successful translation makes the images come alive – visually.

waiting for a boarding call. they are parallels that never meet. In effect. They run parallel one beside the other. as parallel paths. postcolonial anglophone and francophone literature very often defies our notions of an ‘original’ work and its translation. more than one world experience. it can send the address off course. each leaves its mark in the other even though they are absolutely other. they cut out a notch. in many ways these postcolonial plurilingual texts in their own right resist and ultimately exclude the monolingual demand of their readers to be like themselves: ‘in between. 6. They do not wound each other. The address is always delivered over to a kind of chance. up to a certain point. they leave a mark. Samia Mehrez remarks (1992: 122) that “By drawing on more than one culture.” “The proper name is a mark: something like confusion can occur at any time because the proper name bears confusion within itself. parallel.’ Heidegger of course associates them. 1985: 136.’” Commenting on Heidegger’s remark that to make poetry is to think (dichten ist denken) Derrida remarks (1985a: 130): “On the subject of ‘Dichten–Denken.Translating Folk Theories of Translation Latin term interpretatio. as paradoxical as that may seem. but each cuts across the other. more than one language. For the Greeks. and thus I cannot be assured that an appeal or an address is addressed to whom it is addressed. within the confines of the same text. as Khatibi has suggested. They are really other and can never be confused or translated one into the other. To the extent which it can immediately become common and drift off course towards a system of relations where it functions as a common name or mark. in his work Love in Two Languages: “Permanent permutation. They are parallels that intersect.” (Derrida 1985a: 107–08) A similar reversibility (this time between French and Arabic) is noted by Moroccan writer Khatibi. at the ‘threshold of the untranslatable. But there are also texts where he says very precisely that. therefore. 8. where translation becomes an integral part of the reading experience. this literary production is in and of itself plurilingual and in many instances places us. as you have said. And this language of the cut or break is marked in the text of Heidegger’s I’m thinking of: Unterwegs zur Sprache [The Way to Language]. he found – 149 – 5. the poetic performance of rhapsodes was a ‘hermeneutic’ performance. one beside the other. Hence. The most secret proper name is. while ‘Dichten–Denken’ go together and form a pair. He understood this better thanks to a brief sense of disorientation he had experienced one day at Orly. By cutting across each other. synonymous with confusion. . Yet. a trend in Heidegger emphasizing the irreducibility of ‘Dichten–Denken’ and thus their nonpermutability. There is also.” Eugene Vance quoted in Derrida. ‘dichten’ and ‘denken’ nevertheless have a relation to each other which is such that at places they cut across each other. 7. Such interdependency between languages characterizes the Moroccan novel as well.’ at once capable of reading and translating.

Heath. Ernest. Walter. He could place the word only by going by way of his mother tongue. pp. Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition. Richard Howard. Derrida. Peggy Kamuf. New York: Routledge. he realized he had read it from right to left.Deborah Kapchan himself unable to read the word South. Thomas Sebeok (ed. Intertextuality. 1985a. and Richard Bauman. 1992.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2(2). seen backward. 1960. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. R. The Singer of Tales. Gellner. 1993. Joseph (ed.). Turning it around. Love in Two Languages. pp. McDonald (ed. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. —— Amour Bilingue. 1989. L.” In Illuminations. Concluding Statement: “Linguistics and Poetics. Cambridge. New York: Schocken. “Genre. 1996. Briggs. trans. MA: Harvard University Press. Jeffrey. 1983. 1990. Cambridge. Abdelkebir.). Translation.) Eickelman. Transference.The Hague: Mouton. (The section of this book entitled “Otobiographies: The Teaching of Nietzsche and the Politics of the Proper Name” is translated by Avital Ronell.). Charles. Talal. Graham. New York: Schocken. Benjamin. From Code-Switching to Borrowing: Foreign and Diglossic Mixing in Moroccan Arabic.” In Difference in Translation. 69–82. Khatibi. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press. 1992. 1969.” In Rationality. English edn Christie V. “Des Tours de Babel. Herzfeld. 1997. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. “Concepts and Society. “Mass Higher Education and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary Arab Societies. “Breakthrough into Performance. Harry Zohn. 131–172. 1975. Michael. Lord. 1970. “The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux parisiens. Jakobson. and Social Power. Dell. Deborah. Hannah Arendt (ed. as if it were written in Arabic characters – his first written form. MA: MIT Press. Albert Bates. London: Kegan Paul. trans. Kapchan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.) Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 11–74. Jacques. Wilson (ed. 1960. pp. 643– 655.” American Ethnologist 19(4). Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State. B. – 150 – .” In Style in Language.” References Asad. Paris: Fata Morgana. Hymes.” Folklore: Performance and Communication. through a window. 1985b. —— The Ear of the Other: Otobiography. Roman. Trans. Dale. pp.).

Heroic Poets. Culture and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco. 1993. New York and London: Routledge. Slyomovics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1995.Translating Folk Theories of Translation Mehrez. Ideology. Literacy. Wagner. Subjectivity. 1976. Dwight Fletcher. Berkeley: University of California Press. In Rethinking Translation: Discourse. 1992. pp. – 151 – . Susan. Lawrence Venuti (ed. Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition. Paul. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press. Reynolds. 1987. Daniel A. “Translation and the Postcolonial Experience: The Francophone North African Text”. The Merchant of Art: An Egyptian Hilali Oral Epic Poet in Performance. Samia. 120–138. Interpretation Theory : Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning.). Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Ricoeur.


1 In this respect it is. Nor has any of this seemed to trouble either its promoters or most ordinary speakers. and Brunei. he readily imagines it from the perspective of English. Readers of Indonesian print media will be familiar with this pattern of glossing backwards that. He replied “We chose Partai Amanat Nasional because it would be better translated into English as National Mandate Party. he already comes to it as a second language. for whom its “modern” and relatively cosmopolitan character – its inherent translatability – are unquestionable. a major figure in national Islamic politics and founder of the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional).” nasional. as if in anticipation of this future translation. Of course Amien Rais was making a shrewd political calculation in this bid for international support. and Post-Colonial Voice: On Indonesian Webb Keane The Otherness of One’s Own Best Language In August 1998. English words italicized in the original. Having been a childhood speaker of Javanese. What does a national language like Indonesian offer. Shared with Malaysia. but what is striking is how unapologetically he expresses the decision with reference to translation. the language is rarely portrayed as the bearer of primordial identities. In addition. and one assumes unself-consciously. Singapore. into the Indonesian.–6– Second Language. Moreover. an interviewer for the Indonesian news weekly Tempo asked Amien Rais. Modern Language. he has already. He seems to find it a perfectly ordinary matter to encounter Indonesian as doubly foreign. why he had altered the name of the party from the originally proposed Partai Amanat Bangsa. National Language. Because the word people in English has leftist connotations” (Amien 1998. perhaps. that so easily invites its speakers to take a view from afar? Certainly not the possibly untranslatable values of local particularity and rich aesthetic heritage. incorporated a so-called “loan-word. as it were. if not always unproblematic. much less a closely guarded cultural property. views the language from the position of a hypothetical English speaker – or of an Indonesian unsure of his or her words. not People’s Mandate Party. – 153 – . translation mine). similar to Swahili or Filipino.

In being portrayed as a language that. or at least its relegation to the past. decentered social and political identities. In contrast to the first language children learn at home. the local.” “modernized. in order to underwrite Indonesian’s apparent potential as a superordinate and cosmopolitan language of purportedly “antifeudal. this potential loss often seems to provoke remarkably little mourning: ethnic-language politics or revitalization movements have been surprisingly rare in the archipelago. In this respect. say. or commonplace plurilingualism. in some ways. for providing speakers with a range of distinctive social “voices. or marketplaces. the dominant language ideologies of Indonesian run counter to the – 154 – .” and made into a cosmopolitan literary vehicle.Webb Keane The self-conscious modernity and even cosmopolitan claims of Indonesian as a national standard have been inseparable from a certain projection of “otherness.” This otherness is related to. something one learns by way of explicit rules. Indonesian is encountered as relatively objectified. scriptural and high literary languages. for being disembedded from and reinserted into particular contexts. it draws on semiotic features immanent in language per se. in some sense.” and for mediating their reflexivity. and the specific violence and tedium of an authoritarian state.” in some sense. This promise is inseparable for the imaginability of the nation as a project of modernity – and it is this promise to which Amien Rais seems to be responding. in playgrounds. it would seem to be readily learnable and translatable – open to anyone. the perceived “otherness” of Indonesian has at least two aspects. to demand the sacrifice of one’s first language. plantations. which underlie its potential for producing both intersubjectivity and objectification. As scholars such as James Siegel (1986. for example. 1997) and Joseph Errington (1998) have pointed out. for all the peculiarities of Indonesian colonial and postcolonial history. The second is cognitive. One is biographical: for most of its speakers Indonesian was acquired as a second language in marked contrast to languages denoted as “local” (bahasa daerah. taboo vocabularies. Moreover. It is the object of purposeful manipulation in a way one’s mother tongue is not. honorific registers. belongs to no one in particular. having to do with general paradoxes of national subjecthood. but ideologically distinct from the forms of linguistic difference characteristic. and even to such second languages as are picked up. or the subjective. If the national language does not inspire love in all who claim it. It does so. however. If it can seem. the rise of the national language and its attendant ideologies also reflect pervasive problems in the semiotic mediation of translocal identities and large-scale publics – in the unstable articulation of ideologies with semiotic practices. the private. Like them. Unlike that first language. of lingua francas. Indonesian is a language whose ideological value has from its early days derived in part from being portrayed to its speakers as a markedly second and subsequent language. this is largely for other reasons. see Keane 1997a). it is commonly spoken of as needing to be “developed.

It involves self-conscious efforts to take advantage of language’s general pragmatic capacities for abstraction and decontextualization in order to make possible new and expansive modes of circulation. existing in unstable and even contradictory relations with one another. and the conceptual specificity by which those forms are interpreted within political contexts – the forms and their interpretations. however. when those nationalists imagined liberation. and the sense of openness and even historical agency it evokes. this involves other paradoxes. Indeed. and is supposed to be transparent to other languages. might enter. signified by European words for categories – politician. And it should allow its speakers to take a recognizable place in the cosmopolitan plane of other languages understood to be modern in character and global in scope. the Indonesian language seemed for many early nationalists to lend itself to openness to ideas. striker. or at least subordinating. a local language. in one form or another. they envisioned a language purposefully stripped of social indexes and cultural particularities. And. one that speaks in public and is potentially identified with the nation. retrospectively construed as their “mother tongue. no doubt. citizen – into which anyone. but also from kinship. such projects do not come into being – or fail – as thought-worlds or representations alone.On Indonesian Herderian tradition that seeks in language the deep spiritual or cultural roots of an organic people that preexists the nation. Indonesian may turn out to be only an extreme instance of a common circumstance in the semiotics and linguistics of nations and their potential publics. It should therefore be a suitable medium for the projection and fostering of a certain kind of persona. unhampered by untranslatable opacities or untransferable indexes of context. Indonesian makes two claims to universality that reflect those of modernist nationalisms more broadly. as speakers in important respects understand themselves as giving up. from colonialism to be sure. is widespread as linguistic standardization is recasting normal plurilingualism into a hierarchy of localities encompassed within larger linguistic spheres that explicitly aspire to hegemony (Silverstein 1998: 410). The rise of Indonesian has been associated with a rather cheerful view of the claim that nationalist aspirations are founded on universal categories.” in favor of one deemed to transcend the local in both space and historical time. Indeed. Thus it would seem to be this very otherness. which makes it peculiarly suitable as the language of the nation as a project of modernity. But as the failure of Indonesian (so far) entirely to fulfill these visions suggests. since it is in principle available to anyone. The language that carries the greatest political and cultural weight may involve a willful sort of self-displacement. – 155 – . In terms of linguistic ideology (Kroskrity 2000). According to Benedict Anderson (1996). in principle. But this is more than a matter of introducing new words and ideas. this process. and what (under this new universalism) came to be thought of as “feudal” (feodal) traditions. They require both practical embodiment in concrete semiotic forms. villages.

Ideologies of national and postcolonial languages. by extension. semiotic features. For such ideas to be inhabitable requires concrete forms of semiotic mediation. highly attenuated kind of act. the (mere) saying of words. makes them the special focus of attention. and their implications for the identification of speakers with “their” language – and their potential alienation from it. portrays the story of Babel as the loss of a world in which Adam’s act of naming brings things into being. Of particular relevance here are popular ideas about historical rupture with “tradition” and its implications for the capacities of humans to be the agents of their own transformation (Berman 1998. naming has become distinct from action proper. with all the active and interactive features of speech. or at most merely a certain. among which the sheer pervasiveness of linguistic habitus gives it a privileged role. as solutions to the problem of divisiveness figured by the Tower of Babel. meta-cultural (Urban 2001) interpretations offered by linguistic ideologies. It is tied to ubiquitous concepts of modernity that orient both high-level policies and everyday activities.Webb Keane Yet we should not assume we know in advance just what speakers see themselves as giving up. The other separation follows on the first: if naming is only a linguistic act (and if denoting is the only linguistic act). Taylor 1989). In his classic discussion. And these come to the fore especially to the extent that a heightened sense of agency. in our postlapsarian world. but not all possible claims about language are equally plausible. (Indeed. As the example of Indonesian suggests.) These are questions of language ideology. its “value” may well be produced only in retrospect [Keane 1997b]. in part. Babel as the Semiotic Condition National languages have usually been posed. but underdeterminant. But this habitus is never sufficient unto itself. the story would go. once upon a time to name was already to act. and inevitably involves the meta-linguistic and. Thus. and performativity. The history of Indonesian suggests that the perceived value of that “mother tongue” does not necessarily lie in its ties to local group identity. One is a rupture between two linguistic functions. for instance in the guise of instrumentalist policies of language reform. an account of the historical particularities of languages and the power relations they involve cannot overlook the endemic problems posed by the semiotics of language. We may see this as implying two kinds of separations. subsequently. then there exists a rupture between what exists in the world and the – 156 – . reference and denotation on the one hand. Babel is an account of social difference that focuses on the material forms of lexical signifiers. draw on the historically specific interpretations and the exploitation of universal. Indonesian has been a central part of a selfconsciously “modern” project of national self-creation. George Steiner (1975: 58). on the other.

What Humboldt shared with Protestantism is a devaluing of the materiality of the word relative to the human spirit and the autonomy of the human subject. This is the foundation for the arbitrariness of the sign. In less religious terms. orthodox Muslims respond to the same semiotic problem by asserting that the Qur’an can exist only in the original divine Arabic words. By combining two kinds of distinction (between linguistic functions. a view whose implications persist in one of the dominant linguistic postulates of the early twentieth century. tempt the worshiper to fetishize ritual rather than the true spirit of faith. the story implicates the loss of socio-linguistic unity with the loss of the full power of words. That the mediation of language itself must necessarily involve some sort of alienation or violence is a common theme in some religious contexts. How can a view of language that is so general shed light on the more particular questions of national identity and its specific language ideologies? Certain semiotic properties come to be topics of interest or sources of concern only under certain circumstances. Not everyone at every historical moment. who portrayed language as external to humans and thus doing violence to them. And this recurrent theme animates an important strand in ideas of “modernity. they seem to privilege material form over immaterial content and thus. it is the rupture in language which brings about the subsequent social diversity. worshipers took their words not from the heart but from external sources. sound perpetually threatens to disrupt it. These worries about the form–sense distinction produce a variety of alternative scenarios. For example. the semiotic condition of possibility for linguistic diversity. a deeper universality. they might find translation’s underlying enabling condition. Saussure’s (1986 [1915]) doctrine of the arbitrariness of the signifier/signified relation. this view sees language as standing between us and the things themselves. Protestantism saw Catholic uses of language as insincere and even idolatrous – marks of their supposedly archaic character (Keane 1997b).On Indonesian names for what exists. The question of unity among the speakers of now disparate languages merely compounds the quandaries of identity of speakers’ relationships to their “own” words that are already found in language’s basic characteristics. in this view. to which translation would do ontological violence. for instance. according to this narrative. Playing up the postAdamic separation of words from the world. If sense should be dominant. has taken the existence of the sound/sense distinction to be troubling. Only. By using prayer books. the hierarchical and anxious aspect of this critique was expressed early on by Wilhelm von Humboldt (Steiner 1975: 82). Since prayer books emphasize the iterability of texts across contexts. notably in times of reformism. and between signifier and signified).” – 157 – . Conversely. reformers have tended to see the distinction between sound and sense in hierarchical and often historicizing terms. namely. In utopian or messianic thought the notion is that if humans can get beyond differences of form. Thus. for instance.

expresses a yearning for that lost universality. then what does it mean to say it “belongs” to the people of the nation? Babel and Domination in Postcolonial Critique The story of Babel asks us to wonder why there should be differences when once there was unity – and. nor is the very existence of such boundaries merely a “linguistic” fact. This potential for publicness and circulation are functions. for instance. it is clear that boundaries do – 158 – . That which renders language a possible object of suspicion at the same time makes it available for a certain optimism about what language engineering can achieve. parochial memories. obscure places – that are part of what make “local” languages supposedly unfit for the nation. It should share certain properties of divine language (transcending existing disunities). As Judith Irvine and Susan Gal (2000) have argued. Therein has often been seen to lie some of the promise of the national language. and how they respond in practice. Potentially a source of alienation. improved. it also allows one to see language as the object of human actions. making it an objectified focus of ideological concern. The need for translation. perhaps even created anew. Moreover. is not simply an unfortunate. Language may be manipulated. Whether people take the decentering that language entails to be of interest and whether negative or positive. This decentering also raises questions about the political status of languages. This question. including shifting perceptions about the very existence of boundaries. traditional hierarchies. but displays speakers’ and listeners’ political insistence on their distinctiveness from others. that distinctions of language construct social boundaries and constitute hierarchies. by-product of our fallen state. but also remain human (it communicates). boundaries between languages do not simply reflect differences of social or political identity. most puzzling when language is taken primarily to be a vehicle for the making of (potentially) true statements. in part. If national language takes the decentering inherent in language and carries it to a higher degree. Rather. Sociolinguistics has long recognized. developed. even contingent. it would seem.Webb Keane The arbitrariness that lies at the heart of the linguistic sign in most academic theories at least since John Locke (Bauman and Briggs 2000) can be a source of ambivalence for modernizing projects. It should translate in both a vertical sense – elevating speakers out of the social and even semantic confines of their local languages – and a horizontal sense – situating them on a plane that will permit them to circulate among other languages of the world. the constituting of identities involves ideologies about language differences. are historically variable questions. These fundamental semiotic issues bear specific historical entailments. becomes less mysterious when the social and political pragmatics of language are taken into view. in this light. of the suppression of those indexical links to particular contexts – to social interactions.

and the language of our work in the fields were one” (1994 [1986]: 438). a supposedly “richer” language should provide resources for the improvement of one that is more “impoverished. these basic semiotic problems underlie arguments about efforts to reclaim local linguistic identity and discursive powers from the effects of colonial domination. Linguistic differences are rarely if ever neutral. and so offends against the shared tacit knowledge that defines intimates. In the postcolonial context. Here the claims of universality mask and legitimate a historically specific set of political relations. An opposed position stresses the ways in which translation offends against the self-possession of the speaker. it has owners (1994 [1986]: 436). “the language of our evening teach-ins. This harmony was broken when he went to the colonial school. Indeed. introducing a rupture between the language of education and that of home.On Indonesian not simply separate but also hierarchize. the colonizers and the indigenous “petty bourgeoisie.” To some extent. a modernist and developmentoriented position tends to stress the view that a standardized national language is a vehicle of the movement toward universality. between the language that is the “carrier” of one’s culture (1994 [1986]: 439) and that which is only a means of communication with outsiders. Explication performs an act of interpretation on words that had been left to the recipient to interpret and can thus appear as a form of aggressiveness. the Western claims to understand and master indigenous others that are enacted through translation may be crucial to the everyday workings of power. He thus seems to conflate two kinds of “violence. translation requires some sort of explication or contextualization that is not necessary in the original. Moreover. Thus colonial education is a form of violent expropriation – it takes away the language one truly possesses – and alienation – it forces one to use a language that belongs to others.” that which transpires – 159 – . and the language of our immediate and wider community. between spoken and written language. a rupture within experience. and all the others had to bow before it in deference” (1994 [1986]: 438. the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (1994 [1975]) draws on both views in his argument that African writers should use English because it allows them to communicate across Africa and with the world at large. Ngugi treats language as the property of its speakers. On the one hand. those who spoke their mother tongue were punished. and “English became more than a language: it was the language. The Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote that when he was a child. More specifically. he spoke Gikuyu. bringing peoples together in a global ecumene. but typically involve both ideological and practical relations of encompassment. In colonial situations. Thus the reinstatement of opacity between languages becomes a means of resisting domination and fostering autonomous agency. subordination and dominance (Silverstein 1998). Invoking this experience to attack Achebe’s modernist optimism.” Ngugi links this property model of alienation to another. italics in the original).

with colonial relations. The essentializing claims common to national historiography and identity politics are marked by their colonial genealogies (Chakrabarty 1992). postcolonial critics commonly insist on particularity or heterogeneity. complexities and contradictions have become increasingly evident. But by conflating these semiotic properties. and not fully in possession of or under the control of the individual speaker. is a form of violence to human self-presence. One of these is the notion that language. but an assault on the intimacy of one’s relation to one’s words in a violence both parallel to and serving the violence of colonialism. cosmopolitan and identitarian. Liu 1995. Niranjana 1992. a letting-go. and thus transparency among languages. One Language. of one’s first language (cf.Webb Keane in the power relations of colonialism and a more general schism that lies between authentic speech (that of the mother. and the decontextualizing effects of writing. what Derrida (1982 [1971]) calls its iterability. The respective language ideologies of the cosmopolitan and the nationalist are equally suspect since the poststructuralist turn in postcolonial studies. and thus the resistance to translation among languages. consisting of forms external to. But what if one’s own most politically vital identity is constituted through a language whose greatest strengths lie in its supposed distance from the intimacies of the mother tongue? What if that identity even seems to demand a certain willing sacrifice. One People: From Malay to Indonesian The modernizing projects that have been so central to nationalist movements and postcolonial states therefore reflect certain older anxieties that respond to persistent semiotic features of language. Ngugi sees the move between languages to involve not merely political domination whose medium includes language. Since that time. and both to an originary self-presence. Cosmopolitanism draws indigenous elites into foreign allegiances which may exclude people at home for whom the requisite education and mobility are not available. which are historically specific forms of power. he risks making any challenge to actual relations of domination unthinkable or at least unspeakable. which are inescapable characteristics of language. which flourished in the early postcolonial world. of “real-life struggles” 1994 [1986]: 437) and the general semiotic properties that decenter language – its learnability. the hearth. Achebe and Ngugi represent two versions of high modernism. Mahrez 1992. Thus. for example. cf. so too Ngugi’s romantic assimilation of ethnic group to language. Spivak 1992). If the colonial translator worked under assumptions of universality. Kulick 1992)? The Indonesian – 160 – . The presumption of universal transparency that allows Achebe to assume that the African writer could enter freely into English literature has been thrown into doubt. as crucial to larger projects of historical agency (Jacquemond 1992.

and many agreed with their Dutch teachers in considered Malay – ”that preposterous language” (Sutherland 1968: 124) – to be crude and ill-suited for serious undertakings. the more contested position of Hindi in India – Indonesian is remarkable for its apparent “success. one language. The transformation of Malay into the increasingly standardized language of. a colonial administration. often tried to prevent even indigenous elites from speaking it (Groeneboer 1998). say. The nationalist standardizing project during and after the colonial era continued along similar lines. in contrast to numerically dominant groups such as the Javanese. and thus. The oath committed the movement to one land. an effective response to an extreme linguistic situation. By the end of the nineteenth century. Dutch and Javanese rapidly ceased to be serious contenders as languages of the nationalist movement. government. It was the native language of a small minority.On Indonesian case raises questions about what it means to “possess” a language. the Dutch never seriously attempted to inculcate their own language as the medium of rule and. Unlike the British in India and French in Africa. the official language of nationhood. From that point. enforcing grammatical and phonological norms – and introducing vocabulary – that were quite distinct even from the existing practices of most Malay speakers. Sundanese. but by the time Europeans arrived in the area in the fifteenth century it had become a well-established lingua franca from the Moluccas to the Indian Ocean. being identified directly with neither the colonizer nor any single privileged ethnic group. The birth of “Indonesian” under that name is conventionally dated to the Youth Oath of 1928. if nothing else. a nationalist movement. education. by turns. and “bahasa Indonesia” was increasingly viewed not just as a useful medium for communication but as an emblem of nationhood. knowledge and use of Indonesian has spread rapidly in the last fifty years.3 Dutch colonial policies and practices further reinforced its position across the Indies. Yet compared to. But the choice of Malay for national language was not obvious. and a state apparatus and a national culture was. the educated elite was far more comfortable in Dutch. scholars were attempting to produce a standardized “high” variety of the language for administration. formal and most mass-mediated informal communication. to translate between that and other languages also felt to be “one’s own” or “others’.2 Malay originated along the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and the Malay peninsula. Propagation was largely a top-down process. missionaries and local officials tended to rely on some form of Malay. and Madurese. Instead. 14 of them by over a million speakers each (Steinhauer 1994). Even now some 500 languages are spoken in Indonesia. and it is perhaps a fitting irony that one of the most effective forces for its dissemination – 161 – .” Due in part to the absence of any of the ethnic or political resistance encountered by many postcolonial national languages. until the twentieth century. For the first half of the twentieth century. one people. is a variant of Malay.” Indonesian.

such as the 1945 Constitution and later Language Conferences (Halim 1984 [1976]). or depth (e. and for some is felt to lack subtlety. Malay speakers’ relationship to Indonesian differs from that of speakers of other local languages only in degree. the distinction between Low Malay and Indonesian can be identified with that between the “local” and the national. These two perspectives. beauty. therefore. In this light. by projection. and its heavy-handed models of development. in metalinguistic and ideological terms. its ideologies.g.” This may be a function of a common productive aspect of linguistic ideology. The major landmarks in the subsequent rise of Indonesian. along with the private and the public. Many non-standard varieties of spoken Malay flourish across the archipelago (Collins 1980). By this logic. were highly self-conscious acts of elites attempting to make language the object of their deliberate actions. Official Cosmopolitanism According to the scholar Ariel Heryanto (1995). interpreting and reinforcing at the plane of ideology Malay speakers’ experiences of both Indonesian and. both linguistically and ideologically.” and “modernizing” the language. distinct from other kinds of “code switching. In certain ways. what Judith Irvine and Susan Gal (2000) have described as “fractal recursivity. Indonesian is modern in the very processes by which it has come into being. it is the Indonesian language more than anything else that gives substance to the idea of there being a national culture at all. publishing ventures. In this way Indonesian’s authority and alterity may impose themselves over even “native” speakers of closely related variants of Malay (see Kumanireng 1982). But these variants are often so distinct from Indonesian. Under the Japanese. use of Dutch was prohibited and Indonesian promoted as the chief medium of schooling and propaganda – even the talking bird in the Batavia zoo was retrained to greet ladies in Indonesian instead of Dutch (Wertheim 1964). are two faces of the – 162 – . The rapid increase in centralizing and developmental efforts under Suharto’s New Order regime (1966–1998) greatly expanded the infrastructure for controlling and disseminating the standard through vast expansions of the school system. that to switch between them is a highly marked discursive move. For the switch from a “local” language into Indonesian is. “improving.” the projection of ideological oppositions from one level to another. I want to suggest. some speakers of one may not even fully command the other. indeed. Anwar 1980: 1). “the local language” at the level of practice (see Keane 1997a). From the 1920s there also began a growth in self-conscious efforts to produce an Indonesian literature in publishing ventures marked by strenuous efforts at standardizing. Yet by the 1990s. and television. Indonesian had come by many of its speakers to be identified with an oppressive state apparatus.Webb Keane was the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.

it is that we should be wary of taking the attempt for the result. Hierarchy and Internal Translation The modernity of Indonesian does not lie in the mere fact of being a marked linguistic alternative to some “prior” language. The uses of Indonesian tend to follow the patterns of register or code-switching familiar from other high. however. apart from abstractions like statehood and rationality. national. speeches. it bears a distinct social. official. have for most of the history of Indonesian nationalism been virtues.” Even when linguistically close to that first language. all function in the same way or open up the same sets of possibilities. however. It is the language most appropriate for public. and a medium for speaking across social distance. As such they are meant to impose ordering effects on uses of the language in other situations. These are contexts in which the capacity of the language to index other contexts. If anything has become clear since the fall of Suharto. political.4 These contexts and associations may not. But there is no reason to assume that the centralizing project of the state has been fully effective. a mark of sophistication. such as the lack of deep historical roots in a core population group. nor even in being an object of metalinguistic awareness and ideology.On Indonesian same thing. acquired after a “local language. secretive jargons and so forth shows the ubiquity of a capacity to step into a language perceived as markedly apart from ordinary speech. Indonesian remains a clearly defined second language. and national languages. It is too soon to predict how this standardizing project will fare in post-New Order Indonesia. and international planes. After all. Schools. the peculiarly “modern” character of Indonesian in its ideological attributes and practical functions. national. and technological settings and topics. ritual speech forms. of mass media and the economically higher-order marketplaces. This movement can be habitual and unconscious but also subject to highly self-aware actions and forms of linguistic self-objectification (Voloshinov 1973 [1930]. Marked linguistic varieties can – 163 – . What for the romantic nationalist may seem to be liabilities. plurilingual societies have always involved movement among linguistic varieties. official. The question remains open whether Indonesian can be detached from the hegemony of school and officialdom or whether its promised virtues are inseparable from the sense of flatness and alienation so often imputed to it. is suppressed. see Lucy 1993). and cognitive status. a vehicle for translation among local. educated. The ubiquity of taboo and avoidance vocabularies. respect registers. and official documents attempt quite explicitly to authorize the standard’s claims. For the vast majority of the population at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is the perceived otherness of Indonesian that makes it particularly well-suited as a language for national and personal development. an emblem of modernity and cosmopolitanism.

the region is well known for certain highly elaborated register differences. it has – 164 – . formality. often. Malay. Indonesian has not generally called on primordialist ideologies for its legitimacy. One register forms the unmarked category. and the fact that it presents itself as an alternative to hierarchical registers. the marked category is the speech of seriousness. in which archaic languages steeped in Sanskritic vocabulary alternate with commentaries in contemporary idioms that permit audiences to follow the action. Thus. formal Indonesian had appropriated so much foreign and archaistic vocabulary that it was growing increasingly incomprehensible to all but the elite. especially in Javanese. Errington (2000) has argued that this is part of an alternative kind of linguistic authority to that of the rationalist modernist standard. may go beyond the strategic play of status and exclusion. and perhaps bits of Hokkien. Central Java is especially famous for its elaborate register differences by which minute distinctions of social hierarchy are marked by lexical choices among the vocabulary sets of “high. Rather. by contrast Indonesian is ideologically supposed to open outward. drawing on speakers’ metalinguistic awareness to create new forms. its vision of referential transparency. But if taboo and slang languages aim to create barriers within relatively more open language varieties. however. Benedict Anderson (1990a [1966]. It is this analogy of Indonesian to other such forms of register-shifting. adulthood and. Despite its deep roots in Old Malay. Against it. Indonesian thus differs from earlier forms of “internal translation” in its links to the modernist and cosmopolitan aspirations that underwrote its emergence. as in punning. a persistence of the authority of “exemplary centers” characteristic of much older Javanese and other Southeast Asian forms of hierarchy. often conceptualized as the speech of casual relations and intimacy figured as that between mother and child (Siegel 1986). These functions. acronyms. and taking on many of the social functions of “high” Javanese. 1997) has argued that Indonesian is functionally similar to “high” Javanese in that children learn to replace what they would have said in their original language with words imposed from without. To speak the high language is thus to display the suppression of the low (as retrospectively construed). with profoundly decentering implications for the speaker’s sense of having an “own” language. James Siegel (1986. maleness. With these resources to draw on. that has stimulated some of the most insightful contemporary interpretations of the national language. Crossroads like the Indonesian archipelago have long been swept by linguistic currents and even the relatively hegemonic monologism of precolonial central Java was permeated with words and phrases of Arabic.Webb Keane be highly productive. commonly by putting the materiality of signifiers in the foreground. see Hooker 1993) pointed out that within a generation of independence.” “middle” and “low” Javanese. remnants of scriptural Sanskrit. “Internal translation” (Zurbuchen 1989) is the hallmark of traditional Javanese and Balinese performance. and so forth.

Unlike a Herderian language of the “people.On Indonesian always been portrayed as modern. too close. in principle. it perhaps only displays openly what is ideologically obscured for other languages). for instance. avoided Malay as being a demeaning “language of merchants” (Wielenga 1913: 144). But if you cannot speak that language. Spatially and socially demarcated linguistic centers enable speakers to measure their linguistic correctness – or failings. use Malay” (quoted in Errington 1985: 59). Nobles in early twentieth-century Sumba. Moeliono 1994) expresses a degree of ambivalence: its supposed lack of subtlety and depth is inseparable from its accessibility. cf Silverstein 1996). although Malay “lacked intimacy. At least in the early years. not too distant. since it failed to provide speakers with clear positions of hierarchy relative to one another. The modernity and rationality imputed to Indonesian produced its supposed egalitarianism. Indonesian even today is widely perceived to lack two things that other languages are supposed to have (but in this respect. treating language as a set of arbitrary signs that are subject to self-liberating forms of human agency. the lack of centers was taken to be an advantage. The very lack of status markers that they avoided was something that others sought. the elites typically considered Malay a vulgar language. As a late colonial-era Javanese guide to etiquette advised. This was one source of the perception that Indonesian was vulgar. the use of Indonesian seems to reach for this neutrality and freedom from hierarchy. Thus the common assertion that Indonesian – like Swahili (Fabian 1986) and Hindi (Cohn 1996 [1985]) – is an “easy” language (Anwar 1989. As I have noted. or too condescending (Errington 1985: 60). Egalitarian and Vulgar In the early decades of the twentieth century. It is not commonly perceived to possess either a clear social-geographical “center” or exemplary “best” speakers (Goenawan 1982: 321. Free. The value of Indonesian was not a mere matter of conveying denotations across linguistic boundaries. “If you are asked a question by someone. This is more than a matter of explicit claims on its behalf. But in the heyday of modernist nationalism.” it does not. the very practices through which Indonesian emerged bear the marks of language ideologies that are linked to ideas of modernity. exclude any potential speakers. which was seen as a function of – 165 – . As one Javanese man recalled of the late colonial era. Lacking a presumed “center. But both the apparent crudity and the foreignness of Malay were also sources of its appeal. what language should your answer be in? Use the language of the questioner.” it was a good way to speak with a friend. and as a vehicle for the modernization of Indonesian subjects and society.” Indonesian by contrast is supposed to be open to all. but its promise of escape from register systems altogether.

its speakers feeling their command to be imperfect. and letters to editors. Not surprisingly. Both language and speaker would thus need improvement. this “ease” is reportedly less a matter of linguistic code than of interaction. a crucial figure in forging language policy. a combination of personal and national anxiety captured in the book title Have You Sufficiently Cultivated Our Language of Unity? (Tjokronegoro 1968). This sets up Indonesian as peculiarly the object of metalinguistic discourses and fosters the notion that it can be subject to purposeful manipulation. Writing in an Indonesian sprinkled with Dutch words. in contrast to the relatively unself-conscious mastery of one’s mother tongue (Kumanireng 1982). Indonesian is commonly portrayed as incomplete. that humans can and must take their destiny in their own hands. the sense of otherness remains a component of its modernity. The ordinary experience of learning Indonesian and the critical discourses surrounding it reproduce one of the central features of its supposed modernity. Unlike one’s mother tongue.Webb Keane its apparent “ease. and rational control over this language.” For young Javanese. attacked nationalist primordialism by asserting that Indonesia is a creation of the twentieth century (Takdir Alisjahbana 1977 [1948]: 14–15). he said that the task of the young Indonesian is “culture creation (Dutch cultuurscheppen). which I have taken to be central to ideologies of modernity. In 1948. the move into Indonesian is meant to avoid the overt display of status – 166 – . in principle. Indeed. one’s language should be improved. available as an object of manipulation. Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana. To the extent that it is seen to be non-natural and “external” to the actor. self-conscious. the privileged role of rational human agency. the risks concern the projected self and its presupposed others. Indonesian usage and vocabulary has been the subject of advice columns. What is remarkable is that this ease is granted not by the speaker’s intuitive and habitual mastery of a first language. at least. The formal learning process and the association with writing encourage a sense that one ought to have an active. Writing for the World In the egalitarian aspirations of early Indonesian nationalists and many speakers today as well. the plethora of public criticism seems to have produced insecurity. the state since its inception has been actively working to foster “good and true” (baik dan benar) Indonesian. erecting a new culture in accordance with the passion of the spirit and age” (1977 [1948]: 16). but by the conscious control associated with the second. To these ends. pamphlets. in view of the notion. From the beginning (Adam 1995). Even if Indonesian failed to sustain this egalitarian promise through the New Order period (1965–1998). But this effort is not restricted to the state. language is also.

be no puns. as a modern language. imply an urge to escape from semiotic mediation itself (Keane 2001). there have been many experiments in replacing those most fraught elements. first and second person – 167 – . significant rhymes. This is evident even in simple lexical innovation. should work in collaboration with its egalitarian promise: both presume an ability to transcend the limits of interactive contexts. for instance. Thus the transparency and translatability of Indonesian. According to Minister of Education and Culture Daoed Joesoef (1983). In practice. or makan (to eat) with dahar to indicate respect without necessarily implying adherence to the entire register system of Javanese. be free to become cosmopolitan and egalitarian (see Gal and Woolard 1995). There should. difficulties of phrasing due to syntactic peculiarities. It does so by seeking a language beyond any particular culture. this means a language supposedly abstractable from interactive contexts and the cultural presuppositions they invoke. and poetic dimensions of language in favor of reference and semantics – an emphasis that seems to be endemic to ideologies of the public sphere (Warner 2002: 83). in effect. in this view. proper nouns in which semantic sense clashes with sense-less reference. pronouns indexical of interaction-relative status. deictics with specific topographical anchors. expressions presupposing local knowledge. It should aspire (however impossibly) to eliminate those aspects of meaning that might be altered when repeated in different contexts. taboo languages or underworld slangs. or that might be lost in translation. Pragmatic Paradoxes of the Public This story contains many ironies. at the extreme. this aspect of idea of modernity might even. say. should seek to render its denotative functions transparent and work against the materiality of signifiers. Here’s one: Indonesian was supposed to replace the social hierarchies built into local languages with a modern egalitarianism. such as the Quaker refusal to say you in seventeenth-century England. A language removed from the supposed restrictions and hierarchies of localized cultural contexts should. this aims to remove words from the cultural context that made them indexical of status differences or other aspects of interaction and locality. one might replace the everyday form sakit (ill) with high Javanese gering. Indonesian takes advantage of the alternatives afforded by preexisting register differences. the most direct attack seemed to be to eliminate the most obvious – that is. a modern national standard. Linguistic innovation thereby is supposed to fulfill the early nationalist project of eliminating the more “feudal” elements of local culture. performative. it would seem. phrases with magical powers. denies the indexical. Such abstraction. In common with some religious utopias. For example.On Indonesian differences. In effect. lexicalized – indexes of status. In contrast to the workings of. As in other language-reform movements.5 To that end. and so forth.

and in the process. By the time of the New Order regime. the weight this put on the sheer materiality of signifiers as well as their capacity to index access to restricted sources of knowledge was a direct threat to the cosmopolitan openness of a transparent language that had been sought by high modernists. at least in part. I want to suggest this may be due. in some respects the paradox may be implicit in some modernist visions of freedom to the extent that they couple enhanced agency with increased control over an object world. for instance. what had begun as a rationalist effort to escape the indexical links to interaction and localized contexts had itself become a meta-discursive index in its own right. after all. Overall. and tradition. has always been an option in multilingual situations) but to improve it. when the poet Chairil Anwar used it in the 1940s. second. The conscious choice of this word seeks not only to dislodge the speaker from existing social relations. One may hear echoes of a common theme in early Indonesian literature (as in much nationalist and early postcolonial writing). the once-intimate word aku was promoted as the preferred first person singular of literary writing. it seemed a heroic challenge to hierarchy. to claim a public persona markedly apart from some presupposed prior self and its social relations. in semiotic terms. had become deeply associated with the centralizing project of the authoritarian state. a medium whose most powerful claims on its speakers included the promise of liberation. but also asserts a modernist claim to personal autonomy. the cosmopolitan aspirations of Indonesian faced a conjoined set of paradoxes. As critics of such usages made apparent. and an ever-growing number of opaque acronyms. Among the attempted reforms. By the 1990s. Indeed. The elites of the New Order increasingly laid exclusive claims over the language through the proliferation of Javanisms. And. Anglicisms. the world of his or her birth. Sanskritisms. the effort to create a national public through language reform either failed (by producing an exclusive – 168 – . however. to its associations with certain aspects of the modernist project. it had come to sound arrogant and egotistical. kinship. The fact that anda has met very limited acceptance in spoken interaction suggests how difficult it is to inhabit so abstract a social position. resulting in ambivalences and anxieties that are far from resolved (see Siegel 1997). In political terms. the clash between modern urban freedom and the constraints of village. This autonomy is manifested in the speaker’s agency relative to language itself. Goenawan says this is because the authoritarian climate of the Suharto regime made individualism seem dangerous. one occasionally encounters people who use the English you. According to Goenawan Mohamad (1995). but it does not explain why the supposedly neutral and egalitarian aku should have those particular connotations.Webb Keane pronouns. This is surely true. in the choice to step out of – even to sacrifice – one language and not only to speak another one (this. and the supposedly neutral anda coined in the 1950s has found its true home as the term for the universal addressee of advertising and public announcements. For second person.

least confined to particular geographical. the process of associating language with projects of development and especially with literary culture entails not just an obvious elitism. Yet wordplay. They commonly focus on the materiality of linguistic form. – 169 – . So functionally reductive and objectified a view of language would seem to presuppose and promote the self-possession of subjects for whom nothing important eludes translation and everything can be made explicit. Sukarno himself (Leclerc 1994) – imagine and take on the perspective of his most distant potential interlocutors. or interactive contexts.On Indonesian and controlling “high” language of the state) or succeeded only ambiguously (by offering speakers only the most notional public identities and constrained rhetorical possibilities). As a modernist project. however betrayed and disappointed. national identity commonly seeks culture in language that one can stand outside of. most open to being understood from within other languages. To do so requires that he – like. may yet unleash new possibilities. it ties the project of asserting historical agency to a more problematic one of mastery over language itself – a tie that. but a certain disembedding of what a national “culture” could mean. Recall the anecdote with which this essay began: Amien Rais at his most authoritatively public. American political observers). as it unravels.g. however covertly. it seems to exist in a paradoxical relation to the claims of national cultural identity in two respects. Seeking their recognition begins by his own effort to recognize who they might be (say. By the same token. Such openness to other languages through translation would seem to render problematic the nationalist claim to “possess” that language for oneself (while avoiding the potentially dangerous politics of language and ethnicity that “possession” can invite). Perhaps we can see in these hints of alternatives to engineered standardization that may yet emerge. they may not recognize him for who he would be for them. Widodo 1997. subversive slangs. Second. the standard language as an emblem of national culture and political identity seems to depend on an ability to take the materiality of semiotic form to be plastic matter. and entails a degree of risk – that. First. thus retains a certain modernist austerity and even heroism. subordinate to immaterial denotations and the intentions of those who could somehow stand apart from it. To the extent that the project of asserting historical agency retains its genealogical ties to ideologies of the modern. and even growing Islamicist uses of Arabic. to the extent that it aspires to the most textual and most translatable pole of language. seems to aspire to a cosmopolitan transparency. historical. founding a national party in a moment of historical crisis. this vision of Indonesian. Zimmer 1998). finding there not something that escapes translation – something one could call uniquely one’s “own” – but that which is most translatable. new vernaculars. Chambert-Loir 1984. as if to deny the modernists’ claims for transparency. failing to translate his words correctly. As a dominant language ideology. continue to emerge outside the officially constituted “public” (e. notably.

5 per cent Sundanese (Moeliono 1994: 378). for their comments. 2.Webb Keane Notes 1. about 4. Pramoedya 1963. 3. whether the linguistic distinctions between them matter ideologically is highly context-dependent. Maier 1993. and Amrih Widodo.8 percent speaking Javanese and 14. Ariel Heryanto. Kumanireng 1982. By reducing the options among even those pronouns available in Malay (Errington 1998). Columbia. Patrick Williams and Laura – 170 – . Yopie Prins. Mühlhäusler 1996: 205. Wolff and Poedjosoedarmo 1982. 1977. See the sociolinguistic accounts in Errington 1998. and owe something to less formal conversations in the Michicagoan Linguistic Anthropology Faculty Workshop. In the process. 5. and at the Universities of Chicago. 1989. References Achebe. In 1928. Bahasa Indonesia. standard Indonesian has sought to deny their social implications. Steinhauer 1994]). they were subsumed within an objectivistic ideology by which language was seen to function primarily to refer to and denote an external world. Chinua. Henk Maier. Beth Povinelli. 1997. the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting. Henk Schulte Nordholt. Moeliono 1994. I am grateful for support from the Institute for Advanced Study.” is a variant of Malay. Joe Errington. compared to 47. Vince Rafael. literally “the language of Indonesia. Teeuw 1973.” In Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory: A Reader. Nancy Florida. Takdir 1957. Mellie Ivy. Oetomo 1987. Goenawan Mohamad. Post-independence censuses show those claiming Indonesian as their first language as 12 percent in 1980 and 15. and the University of Michigan Humanities Institute. Princeton. “The African Writer and the English Language.5 percent in 1990 (compared to 38. Lee Schlesinger. 4.6 percent Sundanese [Hooker 1993: 273. NJ.9 percent of the population of the Indies spoke Malay as their native language. For the history of Indonesian see Anwar 1980. Acknowledgments Earlier versions of this chapter were presented at a Wenner-Gren Conference on Translation and Anthropology. and Michigan. John Pemberton. On the problem of pronouns and Indonesian national identity see Benedict Anderson (1990a) and James Siegel (1997). Thanks to Pete Becker.8 percent Javanese and 15. Sue Gal. Hoffman 1979. Rudolph Mrázek. For a succinct statement linking proper choice of first person pronoun and the “anti-feudal principle of democracy” see Ali 2000: 153–6. Cornell.

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The general practice of orientalists in recent years has been to adopt one of the various sets of conventional signs for the letters and vowel marks of the Arabic alphabet.–7– Notes on Transliteration Brinkley Messick “Transcription always raises questions about translation. vary from district to district. Lawrence about his spelling of the many Arabic names that appear in his book: Arabic names won’t go into English. transliterating Mohamed as Muhammad. and that some of the consonants have no equivalents in English. in a Preface prepared by the author’s brother A.” James Clifford (1990: 58) I Included in the front matter of Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935). and Koran as Qur’an or Kur’an. and their vowels. for their consonants are not the same as ours. There are some “scientific systems” of transliteration. Lawrence (p. then anticipates his brother’s remark as he goes on to say that. is a quoted remark by T. in Appendix II (p.” Before quoting his brother in the Preface. I spell my names anyhow. to prevent my appearing an adherent of one of the existing ‘systems of transliteration’. to show what rot the systems are. W. A. This method is useful to those who know what it means. 20) had calmly explained that only three vowels are recognized in Arabic. W. The same place-name will be found spelt in different ways. like ours. A. (p. not only because the sound of many Arabic words can legitimately be represented in English in a variety – 177 – . E. exactly. which gives the dates of his movements in Arabia in 1917–18. muezzin as mu’edhdhin. but a wash-out for the world. 21) In the back matter of the book. he adds. 664).. W. “Arabic names are spelt anyhow. helpful to people who know enough Arabic not to need helping. but this book follows the old fashion of writing the best phonetic approximations according to ordinary English spelling.

and Dutch scholars on the Shafi`i school followed by Muslims in Java and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.” The publisher: “Jeddah and Jidda used impartially throughout.” Lawrence replies. When focused primarily on doctrinal texts (e. but also because the natives of a district often differ as to the pronunciation of any place-name which has not already become famous or fixed by literary usage. Also quoted in the brother’s Preface are some samples of behind-the-scenes exchanges between the publisher and the author in connection with the production of an abbreviated version of the book (known as Revolt in the Desert. and el Muyein. The main genre translated was the authoritative basic instructional manual of each of the law schools. which historically has followed two different schools of law. and Slip 38. although otherwise “very clean. Thus French scholars mainly concentrated on texts from the Maliki school of law predominant in North Africa. 1927). texts which typically are very brief. el Mayin.Brinkley Messick of ways. “Should have also used Ruwala and Ruala. On Slip 23. – 178 – . I could refer to the Dutch translations (into French) for my work on basic Shafi`i texts. was Jedhad on Slip 40. The pattern of target texts for these earlier translations of Islamic legal manuals generally followed the interests of the Orientalists’ respective colonial regimes. the she-camel. English scholars on the Hanafi school adhered to by Indian Muslims. Intentional?” Lawrence: “Rather!” The publisher: “Nuri. Messick 1993).” the author counters. which flourished only in uncolonized highland Yemen. In my research on highland Yemen. and sometimes even rhymed to facilitate memorization. which take the published form of the “note on transliteration. Emir of the Ruwalla.” Lawrence says.” and to “Sherif Abd el Mayin of Slip 68 becomes el Main. In all later slips ‘Rualla’.” To “The Bisaita is also spelt Biseita. el Mayein. “Good.” to “Jedha. belongs to the ‘chief family of the Rualla’.” are found “full of inconsistencies in the spelling of proper names. The much longer but also conventional prose commentary works have not been translated. ‘killed one Rueli’.” Later. my translations could in some instances draw on prior Orientalist efforts that date to the nineteenth century and earlier. “She was a splendid beast. The publisher gives a list of queries raised in reading the proofs which. ‘Rualla horse’. “Good egg. I shall return to examine some disciplinary versions of such remarks.g. I call this really ingenious.” II Translations from Arabic to English are a routine aspect of my work on the various textual genres of Islamic law. often stripped-down in expression. but there was no equivalent translation for the authoritative text of the indigenous school of law. el Muein.” the reply is.

III In part because I do not produce integral translations of texts. known by the related terms transcription and transliteration. the movement was from early renderings marked by loose paraphrase to a form of rigor that required that a single word must be the consistent translation of a given Arabic term and that any additional words or phrases necessitated in the Western language (to make regular sense of the extremely concise Islamic manuals) would now be set off in parentheses. and for which reasons.Notes on Transliteration Over about a century and a half. where neither capital letters nor periods or other such punctuation exists in the Arabic text. and punctuated pauses within sentences. I employ a series of seemingly mechanical presentation devices which also may be understood as deeply transformative in their own right (see Chartier 1992). Similar issues are raised by my occasionally creating paragraphs. I translate large segments of the judgment texts. I will address what may be considered the comparatively minor practice. Unlike the modern Arabic of the printed newspaper or book. This practice takes two very distinct forms. and it is my ultimate hope that in this chapter an – 179 – . These already weighty issues taken into consideration. The Yemeni texts are in handwritten Arabic on vertical paper rolls. I also work at a very different generic level of the law. of rendering single foreign-language words or phrases in an English language text. In examining such features as the structure of competing legal narratives. there was a sense of scientific progress in Orientalist translations. When doing so.” of the relations and movements between languages. Few of these have been translated in any region of the Muslim world. I then might reflect on whether. and in my own work the explication of such Islamic concepts has been a central activity. and in part because I find a direct assault on the phenomenon of translation daunting. in which punctuation is standard. the detailed devices for the quotation or indirect reporting of evidential testimony and the textual markers of an authoritative legal record. These begin with such spatial interventions as the creation of sentences. As I translate. cutting across this colonial patterning in the incidence of translations. the mere technique. A persistent problem in such translations was the unquestioned use of Western legal terms as the translations of Islamic ones. Both are techniques of the “trans. I not only create a print version of a handwritten original but my English translations make implicitly vowelled “readings” of the unvowelled (and sometimes also unpointed) Arabic original. or not. Roughly characterized. Also. I am constantly aware of two mundane pulls: between accuracy in rendering this distinctive legal Arabic and accessibility for the reader of English. my judgment texts are continuous in the original. my English versions are relatively faithful. that of the judgments issued in shari`a court cases.

by design. between two worlds. remains not fully transformed. and in their mechanical faithfulness they also seem to avoid the dangerous traditore in traduttore. one considers the relation between a reported language and a reporting language. in what is termed “reported speech.Brinkley Messick understanding of their restricted work across languages may shed some light on that of their more formidable relative-by-prefix. In this sense. The transcribed or transliterated text remains suspended between languages and belonging properly to neither. In this sense. the reported text both retains certain connecting filaments and resonances with its original textual site and also assumes new attachments and significances in the reporting text.” the relations between reported texts and reporting texts. however. translation. temporalities and metaphysics. then a distinctive difference is clear between translation and its relatives. In translation. seemingly eradicating its physical traces. for example. which must drop away or be hidden in the finished product. As part of his “translinguistics. It concludes with its insertion in a new textual location in the reporting text. even simple quotation within the same language begins to have some of the character of translation between languages. or translated. construct a bridge between two languages. This special language never exists as such. and thus partially domesticated. in the process. Received into an adapted English letter system. in a halfway stage of language. having neither completely departed from the reported language nor completely arrived in the reporting language. in the analogous realm of interlanguage movements. their geographies. transcription and transliteration. from its original source or context. While translation tends to leave the other language behind. arriving in its new location. the foreign fragment nevertheless retains its identity as a fragment of another language. The foreign word or phrase has been excerpted and inserted but. In the process. Compared with the total transformation wrought by translation across languages. whereas in transcription and transliteration these relations are revealed and even foregrounded.” Bakhtin (1986) has discussed the analytic relations surrounding intertextual movements. The trajectory of such movements commences with the excerpting of the text to be reported. – 180 – . or rather. the movements carried out by transcription and transliteration appear stalled or interrupted. into the language of the reporting text. specifically. transcription and transliteration actively preserve such traces and.” at least not in the complex manner of translation. at least independently. it belongs to a special intermediate language of its own. a line to be quoted. The resulting fragments are left betwixt and between. the relations between the reported and reporting languages are obscured. If. transcriptions and transliterations might be thought of analytically as the scaffolding for translation. These techniques would seem to raise none of the thorny “meaning” issues of translation: they do not dramatically carry meaning “across.

Additionally. by Derrida (1974) and his translator. In a scholarly article. with little attention to interrelations. or language. When this formal system is characterized by a scholar. and the same lower-case Roman numerals. Such “notes” have their own (admittedly minor) generic history and they might be compared with those that pertain to statements about translations found in approximately the same locale. such notes sometimes permit authors to speak directly to us or. “Notes” on transcription and transliteration characterize the about-to-be-introduced.” IV Transcribe: trans + scribere (write) Transliterate: trans + litera (letter) I have referred thus far to the two techniques. I taught Moroccan Berbers to read Berber folktales published in transcription.” the comparatively staid and predictable “Acknowledgments. we usually also get a view of the author’s sub-disciplinary identity. and in publication this adoption is implicit. One exception. for example. is a book of foreign-language texts in which the medium of conveyance or instruction is the system. occasionally including some irascibility or wittiness.g. of individual letters. they reveal an irreverent personality. of course. by contrast. Spivak.Notes on Transliteration but is only given rise to in the interstices of two languages. as examples of the same phenomenon. of the enigmatic problematic of the “preface. transliteration is one of pieces or parts. transcription and transliteration. the textual locale where it is spoken of. Webster’s Third International) have them as synonyms. of transcription or transliteration. the text already has to have passed into the system used by the journal in question. – 181 – . Are they the same? One distinction may be suggested by their respective Latin etymologies. It is rare to see a transcribed or transliterated text stand on its own two feet. as in the case of Lawrence and some others to be sampled below. that is. Both “notes” on transcription or transliteration and those on translation partake. Other instances arise when anthropologists develop special languages with their informants. Where transcription is a practice of written entities. Fabian (1992: 86–88) describes the reoralization of a deficiently transliterated Shaba Swahili text as a step prior to translation. but such texts characteristically remain in the background of research. identified and specified by its characteristic meta-site. Some dictionaries (e. How much more interesting such notes can be than that other minor passage of the “pretext. which typically takes the form of a brief “note” in the front-matter of a book.” as exposed. however.” or “pretext. This special language or system is marked. of full passages and their dynamics. special in-between language or system which is to represent a particular foreign language as it appears from time to time within the standard language of the work in question.

crossed-out. or gloss. In both genealogies there are histories of competing systems and. in turn. the footnote. Transliteration pertains to the philological sciences and involves not a universal system but a series of particular (even idiosyncratic) ones. 1990: 51. interlinear and standard English.Brinkley Messick In the usage of anthropologists. It was elaborated in the early professional method of “text-taking. As such.g. At issue is the need to produce a final product with legitimating or confirming “evidence” in the form of a reported passage from the other language in question. Grafton 1997). are the general and specific histories of the scientific refinement of scholarly translation. involves the author’s sub-disciplinary (scientific) identity. from the Muslim lunar calendar. which also have their own histories (e. but their genealogies go back to different sciences. Together with such discipline-marking techniques as systems of citation and referencing. a sense of scientific refinement and advance. Like many other devices. 1986: 116–7. to such tools as the International Phonetic Alphabet. rewritten ones that were published on pages facing translations of different types. the specialists in non-Western written texts. by contrast. Transcription’s pedigree leads to the universalizing aims of linguistics. and the aim of accurate renderings of “any” sequence of speech. transcription is the original technique (see Clifford 1983: 135–42. is a relatively new technique for anthropologists. In their practice. it was an activity of reading. Both techniques have “scientific” roots. When longer texts – normally poetry in my field of – 182 – . Transliteration techniques were developed by these textual specialists to represent the written texts of another language. which. 57–9). transcription and transliteration are elements in what was known as a book’s “scholarly apparatus.1 It is the name also for the characteristic method subsequently employed by linguistic anthropologists for recording an oral text from an unwritten language. and its technical lineage is traced not to linguistics but to the orientalists.” as linguistic traces of “being there.” In scholarly writing. What are the designs of such usages? To what ends are the techniques employed? This depends on the particular authority claimed by a given reporting text. There were both the rough. and then of writing. then of writing. transcriptions were steppingstones to translations. over time. Transliteration. “heard” transcriptions of the fieldnote stage and the polished. on the part of the anthropologist. originally to AD and now to CE years). designed to represent particular languages. transcription and transliteration figure as elements in historically specific forms of “ethnographic authority. it is an activity of trained hearing. of course. including the presentation of photos.” Parallel to these histories.” by Franz Boas and others. the two techniques of transcription and transliteration often are closely associated with translations. and also the histories of such detailed related techniques as date conversion (e. For Boas. In the orientalist tradition. transliterated words or phrases usually appear following their English translation.g.

V There are three major systems of transliterating Arabic. In notes on transliteration it is common to find statements concerning certain words from the other language that have crossed over into full reception in English. pp. these and their accompanying translations usually are placed in an appendix.Notes on Transliteration research on the Middle East – are transliterated. To consult the article on “mosque. especially the hand annotations of generations of specialist librarians. 64–86) and the potential he identifies of unexpected losses as the older work. its system cannot be forgotten by experts. or Persian or Turkish word. The Library of Congress system is on the march. especially with the streamlining of its transliteration that has occurred with the computerization of its catalogue entries. the Library of Congress is carrying out the transliteration of foreign titles. Brill) and IJMES. for every one of the authoritative articles in nine massive volumes (and counting) of the second edition has a title that is a transliteration of an Arabic. with which I have some experience.” giving masjid. New disciplinary engagements with societies with writing have led to new methods and new requirements concerning the reporting of written texts. you have to know to turn to “masdjid. Where publishers will happily print translations they tend to resist publishing extended transcribed or transliterated texts. however. The Encyclopedia of Islam system is the most venerable and also the quirkiest. Typically such receptions are explicitly authorized by reference to entries in dictionaries. At the same time. One recalls. Increasingly. the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: E. They also usually occur in a formation of letters that is correct neither – 183 – .” The “dj” here for the Arabic letter jim is an example of a transliteration found only in this encyclopedia. work that had been central to the job descriptions of specialist librarians. however. J. those of the Library of Congress. 1994. and these have drawn critically on the long-established techniques of the orientalists and their successors in the fields of area studies. April 4. The rise of sophisticated transliteration among anthropologists interests me as an indicator of interdisciplinary movements toward the study of written texts. is lost in the scientific advance of digitalization. with the last now the standard in most quarters. I turn from attempting a history of transcription. which I do not know first hand. the International Journal of Middle East Studies (Cambridge).” for example. in most other systems it is now simply represented by a “j. and it is now rarely adopted as such. This has occurred partly in connection with the discipline’s historical and linguistic turns. Nicholson Baker’s “Discards” article (The New Yorker. Revealing now my own sub-disciplinary lineage. to a closer focus on transliteration.

“the historian is given a text and the anthropologist has to construct one” (Asad 1986: 144). . versus Koran. transcription was replaced by early attempts to employ systems of transliteration. likewise. Beijing supplanting Peking is probably the same phenomenon in the reporting of Chinese. however. the first among them the fact that Arabic was the original example language in the study of diglossia (Ferguson 1959). 6. further back in time.” With such understandings. In specialist texts. As a “field” language. This was the era of the disciplinary distinction between spoken “field” languages and written “research” languages. in the case of North Africa and it was historians and literature specialists who worked with written Arabic. Rapidly. and no regular conventions exist for representing spoken forms of Arabic in written Arabic itself. then at least to spoken forms of culture within literate civilizations. without either italics or diacritics. the disciplinary identities of historian and anthropologist could be retrospectively glossed by statements such as. In the post-Boasian. anthropological field workers in the Middle East and North Africa exclusively used colloquial languages. It often is difficult to ascertain the register of Arabic being dealt with. and Quran (or Qur’an). For anthropologists. 1997). colloquial Arabic posed some particular problems. that is. as opposed to French. – 184 – . the anthropologist learned the spoken language during the first few months in the “field. may be linked to the reproduction of Arabic script in Western academic works. While the vowels are “incorrect” in such system terms they tend to make fuller use of the vowel structure of English. The two basic features of the various spoken Arabic dialects were their variable distances from written forms (of several levels and types) and from each other. translate texts the way the translator does. anthropologists used transcriptions adapted from colloquial language dictionaries written by linguists. only when they first appear in the text. Arabic had the status of a “field” language. Thus we find Mecca preferred by scholars over the technically correct Makka. Messick 1993. ch. At about the middle of the twentieth century and for a couple of decades thereafter. After this they appear unmarked. and. Sometimes there is something of a specialist crusade in support of correctness: Muslim now has made solid inroads against Moslem. or “the ethnographer does not . if no longer exclusively to peoples without writing. formally transliterated. for example. . the history of the advent of print in the Middle East (cf. later. in the case of Arabic. reported foreign words are often underlined and fully marked with diacritics. scientific-modern tradition of Margaret Mead (see the 1939–1940 exchange between Lowie and Mead in the American Anthropologist). Such editorial conventions adopted by scholars and academic presses also involve a history that. as if received in the English of the book in question.Brinkley Messick in transcription nor in transliteration. and the use of transcription thereafter mainly was reserved for. At first. Mid-century anthropology was a discipline devoted. He must first produce them” (Crapanzano 1986: 57). to the printing of Arabic texts in the West and.

The presence or absence of a dot under the k will distinguish between the word for “heart” and that for “dog. Hitti spells it q_di. to the majority of readers the frequent recurrence of this – 185 – . and Geertz. This becomes particularly evident when the subject of Arabic transliteration arises. and also of written Arabic itself. The skill and precision with which a given system is used may be an index of knowledge of the foreign language. At this point the lay reader may exclaim. “Any transliteration of Arabic words leads to dispute. physical anthropologist and generalist author of the classic introduction. “So what?” – but the lay reader does not review these books. No one could feel less scholarly than I do. In any case. But there remain significant traces of anxieties and frustrations. Coon. “No man could hope to draw together the various fields from which the materials of this book are derived if he were a scholar in any one of them. ethnographer. More in Lawrence’s vein. and Calverly q_d_. together with glimpses of distressed authorial personalities.Notes on Transliteration and marked. and yet I cannot find complete agreement among them. Gellner. E. as it always does in forewords to books on the Middle East. most authors deploy their “note” mainly to report on the system adopted. and Calverly. No transliteration system existed for any form of spoken Arabic. including those of major disciplinary figures such as Evans-Pritchard. in his famous non-academic travel account Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger writes. I have before me the handiwork of Hitti. Coon begins. In contemporary books. a dot under a consonant or a macron over a vowel are matters of utmost importance. A contemporary irony is that as the discipline becomes ever more demanding in terms of required language skills. I have tried to simplify as much as possible and have consequently left out the letter `Ain.” Only a heartless dog would countenance such confusion. and when anthropologists made a shift to the systems of the written language specialists. He continues. three men whose erudition and integrity are of the highest order. however. native speakers and writers of Arabic who are becoming anthropologists also must learn proper transliteration lest their work be judged deficient in language terms. Gibb. usually represented by `. a specifically linguistic type of inquiry. I begin with the mid-century remarks of Carlton S. Take the word for judge. Gibb k_d_. VI Has the spirit of T. Lawrence’s resistance to expert standardization been extinguished by the normalizing procedures of science? Yes and no. their mistakes often betrayed their ignorance of those systems.” (1951: v). To the myopic dotter of i’s and crosser of t’s. few Englishmen can pronounce this letter correctly. Caravan: The Story of the Middle East. which is a basic ingredient in judging scholarly achievement.

how they are written in Arabic. and those who do not know the language would be little the wiser had I transliterated them differently. a sort of silent growl: the ‘gh’ is the Arabic ghain. one as Najib. two Arabic letters are collapsed into one mark: “The apostrophe (‘) is either a glottal stop or the Arabic `ain.” Lancaster goes on to detail the extent to which he intends to override the relevant distinctions: “I have made no distinction between light and heavy consonants nor between long and short vowels. This is a difference of three characters in the transcription of a word that only has four letters in the original Arabic. Mottahedeh (1980: x). I have attempted to steer a middle course between a pedantic obsession with consistency and a defiant abandonment to arbitrary phonetic approximations of the sort that T.” Likewise.” For their part. and that Lawrence also mischievously wished he had used Ruwala and Ruala as well. but he states. “As names are variously pronounced and spelt in different dialects and areas. Experts say that this soft ghuttural sound is pronounced like the Parisian ‘r’. like Amman. E. I have stuck to the conventional spelling. I agree with T. a not-so-silent growl. He adds. “I hope that experts will forgive me. Lawrence justifies in the barbed and witty ‘Preface’ to Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” In a following list Evans-Pritchard begins by – 186 – . or can easily discover. [1981]: xiii).Brinkley Messick unintelligible ` would be both confusing and irritating. Ghain. some Arabists have another anxiety which occasionally is made explicit. for example. the other as Neguib. (1959: xv). adds an issue rarely remarked upon by other authors: “In the case of personal names I recognize the right to orthographic self-presentation. For the difficult letter. Evans-Pritchard distinguishes between his own work and that of the Arabist: “I have transliterated Arabic words in the simplest way.” He concludes. Within the discipline. E. It may be recalled that his group’s tribal name had been rendered by T. In common place names. Lawrence as Ruwalla and Rualla. as confusing as it may appear.” Like many others of his generation. I have used the conventional ‘gh’. The Arabist will know. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (1949: iv). Lancaster sticks to Rwala. Roy P. Lawrence that the official system only helps those who know enough Arabic to need no help. consider the explicit reference by social anthropologist and non-Arabist William Lancaster in The Rwala Bedouin Today. with regard to transliteration and related conventions. The Prophet’s Pulpit (1994: 10): “Finally. Gaffney. Gaffney adopts the IJMES system with some qualifications.” A more recent reference to Lawrence and to explicit dangers right and left is found in Patrick D. “I apologize for cluttering the text with transliterated Arabic words. E.” In the Preface to his classic ethnography (and innovative anthropological history). E. gives the surname of two brothers within the space of three lines. in his “Note on Transliteration” (1997. Here I follow the lead of Richard Mitchaell who. I have relied on commonsense. however. E. writes. in his peerless study The Society of the Muslim Brothers.

I fear.” But. for instance.Notes on Transliteration identifying a spoken-language phenomenon found among groups of Arabic speakers from Morocco to Iraq: “For the uninitiated it need only be said that the letter ‘q’. and of course independently. Thus. is found in anthropologist Abdalla S. of a shared life and religion. partly because I am ill-equipped to satisfy the second. transcribed the name in the same way. phonetically impossible or not.” An example of a once important system no longer adopted. which stands for the Arabic letter qaf.” Equally classic is Ernest Gellner’s Saints of the Atlas (1969). an unwritten language usually rendered either in French or Arabic. is a guttural sound peculiar to Arabic. in the Preface of which he – 187 – . etc. Unusual in its placement in the book’s back matter. . Gellner’s “Note on Transliteration” (pp. In view of my incompetence in this field. Some linguistically trained scholars assure me that “Moa” is a phonetic impossibility. possessing a bad ear and no linguistic training. though others write it ‘Sidi Moh’. . which stands for the Arabic letter ghain. one way or another. I have preferred to rely on my untrained and insensitive ear. so to speak. Bujra’s The Politics of Stratification (1971). about the phonetic affinity of Berber sounds and Arabic letters. and to give an “impression” of the “actual sound” of words and names. Gellner writes. be misguided. implies nothing. has the value the Parisian gives to the ‘r’ in ‘Paris’. which stands for the Arabic `ain. rather than to allow myself to be persuaded retrospectively that I must have heard something other than what I remember having heard or recorded in my notes. I am partly reassured by the fact that some French administrators also. has in Cyrenaica the value of a hard ‘g’ as in the English word ‘goat. Sidi Moa is what I hear.” he says. Gellner concludes. the phonetic information has in any case been reduced to the minimum . . Something of the hardheaded spirit of Lawrence is found in social scientist Gellner as well: With respect to words heard locally and not occurring significantly in previous records. “It is not always possible to satisfy both these principles at once. But anyone who wished to use this residual phonetic information for serious scholarly purposes would. Arabic has a privileged position. there is a local name .’ that ‘gh’. the language in question for Gellner is Berber. “It is not only French which has a privileged position in the transcription of Moroccan Berber words.” He thus declines to use the conventional Arabic transliteration systems.” Unlike the other cases thus far mentioned. 305– 6) describes two basic intentions: to insure the proper identification of places. “I take responsibility for the social and semantic information contained in this study. and that `. “but only within reason. But the historical accident. Anyway. and I have given the first principle priority. groups. and I have not attempted to use this method. “I respect ordinary French transliterations. and also of nonattention to the requirements of colloquial expression. . In the eyes of both Muslims and Orientalists. which I write as ‘Sidi Moa’. he adds..

The Encyclopedia of Islam or other standard reference works. “Most Arabic words. but he was one of the first anthropologists also trained in written Arabic. even those which occur in written. . Geertz et al. classical Arabic. Harrell’s system for transliterating Moroccan Arabic vowels (Harrell 1966: xiii–xix) for two reasons. “it is hoped that Arabic scholars will have no difficulty identifying words and comparing them to entries in the Wehr dictionary. The text would have been unnecessarily complicated had I followed separate conventions for the spoken and written variants . xii). Lawrence Rosen identifies the two envisioned poles of his readership. Eickleman also privileges the spoken forms. These anthropologists now find themselves in an awkward position located between the dictates of colloquial versus those of written Arabic and also between the schemes of competing academic disciplines. In the “Transcription note” of their Meaning and Order in a Moroccan Society. (1979) state that “The problem of transcribing Arabic remains a vexed one” (pp. One is caught between what one hears said and what one sees written. First.” A decade later. xi–xii).” Anthropologists had not yet become Arabists in their own right.Brinkley Messick states that “All Arabic words in this book have been transliterated in accordance with the system used by the new edition (1960) of the Encyclopedia of Islam. In any case. and thus. Harrell’s system contains the publishing advantage of eliminating the – 188 – . which.” It was considered equally important to avoid burdening the text and aggravating the reader. Eickleman also worked in Morocco in the same period. Arabic words are strictly transcribed in each essay only the first time they appear. Dale F. he writes. Second. while the ordinary reader will not be distracted from the central issues with which we will be concerned” (p. are transliterated as they are pronounced in the spoken Arabic of the region in which I worked. except when their appearances are widely separated . – a worse fate yet – between the passions of linguists and those of philologists. . Americans had begun to figure prominently in the anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa. and a simple procedure had by this point become standard: “In order not to clutter the text with italics and diacritics. it is more accurate than the system of the International Congress of Orientalsts (ICO). .” In the Preface to his 1984 Bargaining for Reality. but leave them unnamed for fear of implicating them in the errors that remain. “The orthographies that exist are designed for classical Arabic. “By this system. In “Note on Transliteration” in his Moroccan Islam (1976: xi–xii).” he writes. exists only in literary form. for the most part.” He selects a linguist’s system: “I have preferred Richard S. specialists will easily be able to reconstitute the classical forms. while leaving the non-Arabist free from distracting technicalities. and this distinction is marked in this “Note:” “We are indebted to a number of our Arabist colleagues for generous help in these matters. [T]his system should make it possible for the Arabist to determine what the word in fact ‘really’ is. designed primarily for classical Arabic. . Concerned about similar issues of readability.

However. for instance. (1976). he adds that “one should certainly not use them for any fine-grained linguistic purposes. often play Mauss to the anthropologist’s Malinowski and spot. Government. on the complex genre of film screenplays among other texts. Dresch begins with modesty: I cannot claim to be an Arabist.Notes on Transliteration macron for long vowels. although I was taught when I started what a diptote is. Gellner would continue to differ and hold to his impossible Sidi Moa. with some modifications: “consonants that conform to literary pronunciation are rendered according to IJMES guidelines. A slightly different intellectual genealogy. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Dresch says that “when in doubt” he has “reverted to classical voweling. Eickelman reaffirms his commitment to the spoken: “Any analysis that draws upon extensive interviews as well as written sources must necessarily cross the line between colloquial and written usage. anthropologists who do not know Arabic should be aware that the language is remarkably regular and its different varieties are often closely connected – with the result that an Arabist can.” Dresch’s students are also trained in written Arabic.” But he maintains that “my simplified and classicizing versions probably do not obscure all that much. that one has misunderstood what one heard. Dresch imposes his own system on these reported texts as well: “Where I quote from other people’s translations I have modified their transliteration to conform with the scheme used here.” Like Gellner. I have usually given preference to the colloquial form of terms and phrases” (1985: xviii). I would not always recognize one now (but then neither would tribesmen). an anthropologist with Arabic training and historical as well as ethnographic interests. “I do not have a trained ear. in his Knowledge and Power in Morocco. Walter Armbrust’s “Note on Transliteration” in Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt (1996: xi). who privilege spoken forms. In “Transliteration” in his Tribes. Unlike the common earlier practice of leaving as is transliterations that appear in material quoted from other Western scholars. (xxviii–xxix) As a potential “Malinowski” figure. and History in Yemen (1989). however. long vowels in colloquial texts are – 189 – .” A decade later. and there are translations from written Arabic histories scattered throughout the book. Those who are Arabists will soon spot that my knowledge of the language is essentially practical. follows the IJMES system for literary Arabic and A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic (1986) for the colloquial. Dresch offers lengthy passages of transliterated and translated tribal poetry in appendices. and a non-North African field location are involved in the work of Paul K.” His overall system choice is to follow a simplified version of the transliteration used in the modern standard Arabic dictionary by the German scholar Hans Wehr. In a remark reminiscent of Gellner.” Unlike ethnographers such as Eickleman. in practice. Dresch admits. without ever going there. Dresch.

provides an interesting example. in their case.”. Whole sentences are transcribed.” In an unusual step. the transliteration reproduces the Arabic letters and not their phonetic value. that in the case of vernacular poetry. (1995: xii) Mundy’s procedures are to be distinguished from those of scholars who once controlled the analyses of written Arabic texts. local documents or vernacular poetry. “Transliterations of `Abbadi and `Adwani Poems” (329– 339). His Appendix A. like Dresch. Johansen first introduces his list of letter equivalents: “The following signs are used in the transliteration of Arabic letters: . This innovation (in anthropological monographs) and others likely to come are facilitated by the availability of foreign-language word-processing programs. In an appendix. however. and so on. .e. . for fragments versus phonetic wholes: “Book titles. that in printing an Arabic text in this manner she skirts the scholarly task of “voweling” the Arabic. but as in many other locales.” Shyrock uses the standard IJMES system. Mundy takes a significant step beyond transliteration by including a printed Arabic text. And the transcription. of giving it a “reading. He then explains his different uses for transliteration and transcription. that is. The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent (1988). . presents “English transliterations of the Arabic originals.” she adopts the IJMES system. Likewise. It will be complained by language specialists. Veiled Sentiments (1986: xv–xix). he also refers readers to “A Note on Transcription” in Lila Abu-Lughod.” Here. Martha Mundy is another Arabist-anthropologist who. Mundy comments. . I have not corrected the occasional departure from standard grammar but have transcribed the text verbatim. . . when citing from unpublished manuscripts. I have adopted transliteration similar to that current for classical Arabic. in a “Note on Anthropological Terms and Arabic Transliteration. without attempting a phonetic transcription. In what he calls “Notes on Transcription” (x). however. works on tribal Yemen. i. single words and half sentences are simply transliterated. is on oral Bedouin histories and poems and their conversion into written history.” The combination of classical Arabic texts and phonetic representation is now found in the work of (non-anthropological) Arabists.Brinkley Messick marked with a macron as in IJMES rather than the doubled letter used in Badawi and Hinds. reproduces the phonetic changes that occur when sentences are spoken. here again “the reader is warned that the Balga Bedouin pronounce q as g. A certain delight in discoveries of “mistakes” and the associated task of correcting extant manuscript versions with the aim of producing a newly authoritative text were hallmarks of Orientalist philology.” Andrew Shryock’s Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination (1997). In her Domestic Government. Baber Johansen’s historical study of early legal texts. the linguistic technique for the reporting of spoken texts becomes the chosen technique for the vocalization of – 190 – .

and Glide” along the other. For “colloquial Palestinian Arabic dialect. here “MA” (Moroccan Arabic). “Arabic words that have a common English form (e. In the resulting transcription system. Haeri states. Medina. In “Notes on Transcription” in Niloofar Haeri’s The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo (1996: vi) we find an example of an anthropological linguist who studies language variation. Pharyngeal and Glottal” along one axis and “Stop. her Appendix 1. For Modern Standard Arabic.” “gh” as . mufti. Palatal. “Notes on Transliteration and Transcription” (211–13) treats both Hebrew and Arabic. whose “Peaks of Yemen I Summon” contains “A Note – 191 – . Johansen concludes. and exceptions are provided within the usual phonetic brackets. Deborah Kapchan’s note also concerns “Transcription and Transliteration” (1996: xi–xii). she must contend with both “CA” (Classical Arabic) and a colloquial language.” She refers to dialectical language studies by Harrell (1962) and now Heath (1987). use the conventional signs of transliteration. Flap. and also provides a Glossary. Dental. as just seen. by contrast. Susan Slymovics’ The Object of Memory (1998) also uses both terms. Arabist Johansen’s previously mentioned “transcriptions” of whole written texts. which are treated as if spoken. Nasal. In her extensive reporting of spoken texts Kapchan explains. Even the sub-disciplinary linguistic folks segment into subgroups whose identities are marked by their adopted systems. capital letters replace the dots under letters used in transliteration systems. and the letter `ayn by the sign instead of the transliterator’s raised “c” or the “ ` ” of my keyboard. A very different variety of linguistic anthropology is exemplified by work on vernacular Yemeni poetry by Arabistanthropologist Steven Caton. Haeri places “Labial. Spirant. the Arabic consonant commonly transliterated as “sh” is rendered as “š” with an inverted circumflex. Iraq) are neither transliterated nor transcribed. Like many others now.” by contrast. In an unusual location in the back matter.” Using technical terms only one or two of which ever appear among anthropological transliterators. Also in this system. “Most transcriptions in this study are attempts at phonemic representation.” The chart she provides “is adapted from Broselow (1976) The Phonology of Egyptian Arabic. Velar. “my ear is tuned to the dialects of Beni Mellal and Marrakech and my transliterations reflect this. Lateral. the American Library Association–Library of Congress System.g. she follows the specialist system of Zeitschrift fur arabische Linguistik. “kh” as “x. a strict sense use of transcription is retained among some linguistic anthropologists together with a set of conventional signs used by them alone. Such scholars use a system of formal transcription. the two terms sometimes may be used interchangeably.Notes on Transliteration written texts. Although. for the emphatic consonants. Uvular.” In her Gender on the Market. she follows a different system from those discussed. a back-matter item that also has become de rigueur.

Rualla. His use of the term “transcription” is appropriate for a linguistic inquiry. because this is a study of an Arabic dialect and not the literary language. “Musil devised a system of recording Rwala dialect which he hoped would accurately indicate its sound values in a Western script. Thus Caton writes. but one based on the regular English alphabet. This is an anthropology of colloquial poetry – once again involving the Arabian tribe known as the Rwala (Ruwalla.Brinkley Messick on Transcription” (1990: xv).” In an argument also found in the work of Timothy Mitchell (1988: 19). “movements. while keeping the grammar visible and the syntax understandable. The cases examined involve the representation of Arabic in English. minor dimensions or intermediate systems of the larger “trans” relation between languages. For the sake of readability I have chosen not to use a phonetic transcription.” Stefania Pandolfo’s “Note on Transcription” in her Impasse of the Angels (1997: ix–xi) deals with the special case of a “multilingual environment” of Berber and Arabic. Mainly. Ruala) – but it is based on the historical corpus of research by Alois Musil (1928). however. together with some examples from Arabists and travelers. Ruwala. her text reports spoken Arabic. either stand-alone proper – 192 – . Michael Meeker’s “Note on Transliteration and Translation” in his Literature and Violence in North Arabia (1979: xiv) is a special case.” but “Musil’s vowelizations of the Rwala dialect have been preserved since he is virtually the sole authority on this matter. mainly within a single discipline. “The transcription system of the International Journal of Middle East Studies is used here. but in contrast to the sort of work represented by Haeri. attempting to convey the diversity and distinctive character of the vernacular idioms. Meeker states that “quotes from authors other than Musil have often retained their methods of transliterating Arabic. However. she points out (illustrating her version transliteration in the process) that “Written Arabic does not have vowels but only harakat.” VII My “notes” here – I hope they compensate for the absence of one in my 1993 book (with some interesting company) – have explored transliteration and transcription. I have had to introduce certain changes.” Meeker has “changed and simplified Musil’s script so that the reader with some knowledge of Arabic might easily recognize Rwala cognates. The usages in question are of two basic types.” He also provides a “detailed description of Yemeni Arabic (specifically tribal) phonology” in his Appendix A.” Unlike the practice adopted by later Arabist-anthropologists. The outcome is necessarily a compromise. “In the transcription of speech I have tried to follow as much as possible the actual pronunciation of words. the system actually intended is one of transliteration. There is a debate about the degree to which he was successful.

Malinowski (1961[1922]: 23–4) set the pattern for the British school of social anthropology. in journals such as IJMES. They occur in passages involving a surrounding discussion in English. provides us an unusual glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of publishing.” Figuring among the unrecorded “pretexts” of a published book. In a famous methodological introduction he describes his advance from the ethnographers of the former Cambridge school. however. the personality of the anthropologist found few textual channels for expression. Differing registers of Arabic complexly relate to social relations and. other than in such “notes. Note 1. false pleas for forgiveness. before the outing of the “self” and the associated venting in the discipline’s “reflexive” turn. and especially from the “experts. or words and phrases accompanied by a translation or gloss. The choices made and the skills demonstrated bear on our assessments of the subtlety and accuracy of the anthropological inquiry in question. In the early days. the witticisms and the anxieties alike mostly replaced by the advance of the professional apparatus. in passages in English which translate Arabic. the back-and-forth between the publisher and the author concerning “transliterations. when anthropologists. Directly or indirectly. Quibbles or full-blown criticisms of an author’s transliterations are not uncommon in professional reviews. The earlier sensitivity of this pretextual site may itself have been linked to a transitional moment in the field. some “notes” may be read as the records of a prior ordeal. by contrast. incisive formulations or significant statements which. As forbearance is sought from readers.. for renderings in English. in the case of Middle East studies. providing indices not only of disciplinary identities but also of the detailed bases of interpretations. etc. first were coming to terms with the complexities of Arabic as both a spoken and a written language. figure centrally in the making of an account. represent a special challenge involving a range of technical options. but I will not detain you with pedantic examples. Or at least that is the way it was. who “tried to quote – 193 – . expert readers’ comments conveyed to the author by the publisher could leave scars apparent in the vexed tone of the published “note. transliterations and transcriptions interact with translations.” Now. The “Preface” to Seven Pillars of Wisdom. the florid and revealing “Note on Transliteration” seems to have gone the way of the old-fashioned polemical footnote. in citation. admissions of weakness.” many “notes” make reference to debates and disputes about transliteration.Notes on Transliteration names or terms. Transliterations or transcriptions usually concern key concepts. The voice of the “note” seems quieter now. or as separate texts located in an appendix.” With their bursts of spleen.

118– 4. 1989. A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic. Vincent. Berkeley: University of California Press.” In Writing Culture. M. —— “On Ethnographic Allegory. 98–121. J. Marcus (eds. Lila. (eds. “I found myself writing exclusively in that language. 1986. 1996. Talal. pp.” he states. Steven. Dale F. Marcus (eds. to his own method which was based on far more extensive competence in the native language. Roger. Caton. Clifford and G. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. R. M. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Spivak. 1986. Government. Asad. Chartier. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. and History in Yemen. 1986. Dresch. 1971. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1951. “On Ethnographic Authority. J. Walter. “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description. Trans. pp. Clifford and G.).” Over time this led to the production of what he called a “corpus inscriptionum Kiriwiniensium. 1983. 1986. G. Berkeley: University of California Press. He reports that his initial efforts to translate into English gave way to his writing directly in Kiriwinian: “at last. Sanjek (ed. Of Grammatology. 51– 76. The Stort of the Middle East. 1990. Jacques. Clifford. Eickleman. Oxford: Oxford University Press.” Representations 1(2). pp. The Order of Texts. 47–70. – 194 – .” In Fieldnotes.). Derrida.).Brinkley Messick verbatim statements of crucial importance” and who also reported the “termini technici” of native usage. James. —— “Notes on (Field)notes. Speech Genres & Other Essays. J. Marcus. Crapanzano. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1990. Armburst. Carlton S. 1974. Veiled Sentiments. Peaks of Yemen I Summon.” In Writing Culture.). The Politics of Stratification. Cairo: Badawi and Hinds. 1986. Burja. 1976. Paul K. pp. Caravan. Berkeley: University of California Press.” In Writing Culture. New York: Henry Holt. “The Concept of Cultural Translation in British Social Anthropology. Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt. C. 1986. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tribes. Clifford and G. Stanford: Stanford University Press.” References Abu-Lughod. Coon. Abdalla S. 141–64. Moroccan Islam. 1992. Austin: University of Texas Press. Bakhtin.

Michael. Tauris. Charles. 158–176. C. Patrick D. Berkeley: University of California Press. Domestic Government. Lawrence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brinkley. Mitchell. Geertz. E. Meeker.Notes on Transliteration —— Knowledge and Power in Morocco. 1993. D. Cambridge.” Word 15. 1988. Musil. Berkeley: University of California Press. The Footnote: A Curious History. Alois. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. “Diglossia. Jeffery. Grafton.). “On the Question of Lithography. Albany: State University of New York Press. MA: Harvard University Press. E. New York: Crane. Geertz. – 195 – . Harrall. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. New York: Anchor. H. 1987. P. 1996. 1996. Heath. The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin.” In The Ethnography of Reading. Boyarin (ed. 1979. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1979. 1997. In The Rwala Bedouin Today. Oxford: Oxford University Press.: Georgetown University Press. Rosen. Bronislaw. “Keep Listening: Ethnography and Reading. A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic. Messick. “Note on Transliteration”. The Calligraphic State. Niloofar. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. S. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Literature and Violence in North Arabia. 1995. Richard. pp. J. Dutton. London: Kegan Paul. Meaning and Order in a Moroccan Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 325–40. Haeri. 1949. Anthony. Kapchan.. Ablaut and Ambiguity: Phonology of a Moroccan Arabic Dialect. 1962. Saints of the Atlas. and L. pp. Gellner. 1985. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition. 1969. Evans-Pritchard. Fabian. Mottahedeh. 80–97. Malinowski. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. T. 1994. Lancaster. Colonizing Egypt. Johannes. 1961 [1922]. Gaffney. Prospect Heights. Johansen. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Ernest. Ferguson. Mundy. 1988. 1935. Martha. The Prophet’s Pulpit. Baber. 1997. Washington.” Culture and History 16 (Copenhagen). B. Deborah. 1997 [1981]. Roy. London: Croom Helm. New York: E. 1959. ——. 1992. E. Timothy. William. 1980.C. London: I. The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent. Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society. 1928. P. The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo. IL: Waveland.

Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination. Shryock. 1984. 1959. The Object of Memory. Rosen. – 196 – . Impasse of the Angels. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1976. 1997. Hans. Andrew. Wehr. New York: Dutton. 3d ed. Lawrence. Arabian Sands. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Susan.Brinkley Messick Pandolfo. Bargaining for Reality. Ithaca: Spoken Language Services. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Stefania. 1997. Thesiger. Wilfred. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1998. Slymovics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

(Vega 1966: 682) As might be expected. Though baptized. or annual records in knots. Felipe. This is shown by the tradition of the quipus. but in Túmbez.1 Garcilaso.–8– The Ethnographer as Pontifex Benson Saler Incident at Cajamarca Some of the difficulties attendant on understanding and then translating religious concepts are illustrated by an incident that occurred during the Spanish conquest of the Inka Empire. for there are no words or phrases in the Peruvian language for many of the concepts of the Christian religion. and the words he heard most often were those used by the ordinary soldiers .” Felipe was a native of the island of Puna. He did so not out of malice. He had also learnt Spanish without a teacher. The first verbal exchanges between the Spaniards and the Inka ruler Atahuallpa were mediated by an interpreter named Felipe. a man of very plebeian origin. – 197 – . does not blame him entirely for mistranslating Fray Vicente’s speech. Felipe translated poorly from one language to the other. Thus when Fray Vicente de Valverde addressed a long and uncompromising speech to Atahuallpa in which he outlined the Christian faith and demanded the Inka’s submission to the Pope and to the Emperor. adding the numbers in order to make himself understood. he claims. nicknamed “El Inka. while clearly no admirer of Felipe. he said God three and one make four. could not express it [the doctrine of the Trinity] in any other way. . According to the chronicler. Felipe mangled the translation. He had in fact learned the language of the Incas. he had received no instruction in the Christian religion and knew nothing about Christ our Lord. Among other things. kept at Cajamarca. young – for he was scarcely twenty-two – and as little versed in the general language of the Incas as in Spanish. . but merely by hearing the Spaniards speak. not in Cuzco. and spoke it like a parrot” (Vega 1966: 682). the chronicler tells us. where the event occurred” (Vega 1966: 682). “Instead of God three in one. from Indians who speak barbarously and corruptly as foreigners. “but because he did not understand what he was interpreting. Garcilaso de la Vega. we have already explained that to all the Indians but the natives of Cuzco this is a foreign language. and was totally ignorant of the Apostles’ creed.

thus helping the Spaniards to find the words that are lacking. if – 198 – . adapting and amending a theoretical construct advanced by Brian K. These are totally unknown to the gentiles.” Smith maintains that a religion is to be identified by the repeated references or returns. or use with great care suitably dignified expressions in the old language or else lay hands on the many words the cultured and scholarly Indians have taken from Spanish and introduced into their own languages. they commonly recognize certain constraints on their theologies. (1966: 682) I return eventually to Garcilaso’s remarks about how the doctrines of Christianity may be “adequately” conveyed to Peruvian Indians. The Indians of today do this with great elegance. and certain of the implications of such claims for translation. so that they can say what they want and the Indians can understand the sermons that are preached to them. The Doctrine of the Trinity Despite a fair amount of heterogeneity in opinion among Christian theologians. Felipe added three Gods and one God and came up with four. they have to seek new words or phrases. But even well-schooled and greatly respected Christian theologians have confessed to difficulties in understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. They nevertheless proclaim it to be central to their faith and of crucial significance for their salvation. the potential harm – of any doctrine for the possibilities of human salvation? (Placher 1983: 69) The second. The first we may term anthropocentric pragmatism. and still do not exist [twenty-nine years later]. it seems. I want to consider one particular doctrine. has proven difficult to translate from one language to another. That is.Benson Saler such as Trinity. I go on from there to consider some recent theoretical claims about the counter-intuitive aspects of religious ideas. For this reason. can be called the principle of “canonical reflexivity. at least partly. moreover. however. Here. faith. I explore that point by first describing certain problems posed by theologians respecting the doctrine of the Trinity. thoughtful theologians generally evaluate their theological options in light of this consideration: what may be the likely consequences – indeed. Two are especially relevant here. out of profound ignorance. that of the Trinity. beginning with efforts to render Greek formulations of it into Latin. Holy Spirit. and the words have never existed. The doctrine of the Trinity. in their language. Difficulties in understanding and conveying the doctrine of the Trinity are traceable in part to a major factor affecting the comprehension and translation of many religious ideas: the matter of their partial counter-intuitivity. grace. adapting them to their own ways of speech. Smith (1987). and similar words. sacraments. when the Spanish interpreters of these times wish to express these ideas adequately. Church.

as the Eastern Church maintained. if Jesus were a creature. by eventual consensus. as Arius claimed. ‘substance’ – by Latinspeaking churchmen was generally in harmony with the literal meaning assigned to it by their Greek-speaking colleagues. is Jesus? And how is he related to the Father? And if human salvation comes through Jesus Christ. The canon is invested with authority. Further. If he had changed once.) By resting religion on this one criterion. from nothing to something. the Council. he would have come into existence at some time. The New Testament depicts Jesus Christ as more than a man. for unlike creatures he was not begotten at some point in time. Smith is forced to identify “Marxism” and “Freudianism” as religions. I criticize him elsewhere for doing so (Saler 2000 [1993]).g.” also declared him to be “of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father. and doing so betokens change. what other considerations might that implicate? Thus. might he not change again? And dare we entrust human salvation to a creature capable of change (Placher 1983)? These and other considerations entered into the development of the doctrine of the Triune God.” This matter of being homoousios proved to be theologically problematic. for instance. And while I do not hold that canonical reflexivity is either necessary or sufficient for identifying religion. proved to be of major divisive significance within Christendom. whether written or oral. it received less polemical attention in the first few centuries – albeit argument over whether the Spirit “proceeds” both from the Father “and from the Son” (“filioque”). At the same time. then. even if they do not explicitly discuss its substance. being an eternal begetting. These two principles relate to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Council concluded that the Son is co-eternal with the Father and that he is “begotten not made. he is canonically distinguished from the Heavenly Father (e. While the Third Person (The Holy Spirit) was discussed. like a creature. however.The Ethnographer as Pontifex only formulaic.” his begetting. that its adherents make to some canon. as Augustine of Hippo and the Western Church proclaimed. and the positive references that people make to it are definitive of their faith or perspective. are ignorant of what is contained in the Vedas. The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) was called by the Emperor Constantine largely to settle the issue of whether the Son is co-eternal with the Father or whether. for example. or only from the Father. “the Father is greater than I” [John 14:28]). but their regard for the chanting of those works in Sanskrit is important to their identity as Hindus. While the translation of this Greek term – homo. in proclaiming the Son to be “true God from true God. I acknowledge that it is often important in religions. (Many Hindus. What. he had come into existence at some time. Much of the early argument in the developing Church focused on the relationship of the Second Person of the Trinity (the Son) to the First (God the Father). ‘same’ + ousios. there were divisions among both Greek – 199 – .

that while the Three Persons are each distinct. . And it raised problems for translation into Latin. a leading fourth-century theologian. unlike any other three persons. Indeed.” Eventually.” “persons”). of course. – 200 – .Benson Saler and Latin speakers as to the theological interpretation of the term. for. And. Since the time of Tertullian. non-synonymous senses. Some churchmen at the Council apparently understood “the same substance” to mean of the same divine stuff. insisted that the term means the very same substance. Latin-speaking Christians had made a parallel distinction between three personae . . Son. This terminology immediately raised problems in Greek.” The Athanasian homoousios theology was eventually strengthened by the Cappadocian Fathers. which would be analogous to saying that our two pieces of oak furniture are cut from the very same oak tree (adapted from Placher 1983). substantia is the literal Latin translation of hypostasis (both words mean “that which stands under”). which would be somewhat like saying that two pieces of oak furniture are of the same substance because they are both made of oak wood. Arius held that “There was a time when the Son was not. But Athanasius. Alan Kolp (1975: 101) suggests that “Without noting it the Arian controversy is a struggle over the correct use of Platonic philosophical categories. for instance. things were more or less sorted out by those who took the trouble to acquaint themselves with the peculiarities of usage in Cappadocian theological Greek and the problems encountered in translating from that discourse to Latin. Some of the theologians who supported the idea of the same divine stuff (oak in general) rather than the very same stuff (the same oak tree) eventually endorsed the claim that the Son is homoiousios with the Father. and Gregory of Nazianzus. Further. where the terms ousia and hypostasis were sometimes employed as synonyms for “substance. so horrified Latin-speaking Christians read Greek references to “three hypostaseis” as meaning “three substantiae. of a “similar substance” rather than of the same substance. they called attention to the fact that they were using the terms ousia and hypostasis in special.” The debate at Nicaea between those who inclined to his opinion and Athanasius and his supporters was influenced significantly by Greek philosophy.” as in some of the writings of Athanasius (Placher 1983: 78). they always act in perfect harmony and concert. the Three Persons of the same divine ousia are the only form that ousia has ever taken or could ever take (Placher 1983: 78). They maintained that the Father. one “substance”. but they are three hypostaseis (“individuals. Basil the Great. The Cappadocian Fathers assisted in clarifying understandings by extended explications. Unfortunately. who creatively reformulated certain Greek metaphysical categories. however. Gregory of Nyssa. and Holy Spirit are all of one ousia. and in case anyone was not aware of it. They declared. as Placher (1983: 78–79) points out. and one substantia.

the Incarnation and the Trinity – are given to us “not. Newman’s Grammar is a major nineteenth-century work dealing with the epistemology of belief. and of the latter notional. (1985: 22) – 201 – . the Summa contra gentiles (Bk. A more contemporary consideration of the difficulty of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity (and thus. are not merely difficult to understand. Thomas writes that there are three ways for humans to obtain a knowledge of things divine. do or do not stand for things. for all things that are. common from abstraction. The truths of the Incarnation and Trinity. 1:5). that revealed truths – he supplies two examples. impossible to understand. does not admit of degrees (1985: 32). The first is by the unaided exercise of human reason and the third is by the post-mortem attainment of the Beatific Vision. Assent. in a profound sense. Singular nouns come from experience. but not assent. And assent is the mind’s acceptance of the truth of a proposition. In short. that it can be proportional to evidence.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Difficulties in Comprehending the Doctrine of the Trinity Despite the attempts at clarification described above. Newman is concerned with what is involved in apprehending. He characterizes apprehension as the mind’s imposition of sense on the predicate of a proposition. and assenting to propositions. IV. at least in this life. Yet they are fundamental facts of reality and of crucial importance for the possibility of human salvation. He allows that inference may be conditional. Thomas declares. which is the one that most directly concerns us here. they are. and others as well. and are common terms. The apprehension of the former I call real.” Newman writes. as something made clear to be seen. inferring. many theologians (to say nothing of ordinary Christians) deem the doctrine of the Trinity exceedingly difficult to understand. declare it to be beyond the powers of human comprehension. “The terms of a proposition. 1). Chapt. however. the “angelic doctor” teaches. While John Locke (1959 [1689]) holds that assent is conditional. however. The second. he says. But if they do not stand for things they must stand for notions. If they do. are units. Newman denies it. Some. In the first of his two summas. but as something spoken in words to be believed” (SCG IV. is by revelation from God. wherein the human mind will be elevated to more powerful understandings. one of the greatest theologians in Christendom maintains that his religion turns on certain truths that the faithful must accept but cannot fully fathom. the difficulty of translating it) is given by John Henry Newman in his An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1985 [1889. by implication. Inference is the relating of a proposition to others as a conclusion. then they are singular terms. at least in this life. indeed. 1870]). Thomas Aquinas takes that position.

of the nature of prayers. and Athanasian Creeds. (1985: 91) Combining the nine into a whole. “as regards catechisms and theological treatises. The Holy Ghost is not the Father. produces a theological mystery – that is. canon after canon. Each of the nine. 5. That is. are these: 1. The nine propositions. 6. however. – 202 – . addressed to God. can be the object of real assent.” Newman informs us. The Spirit is the One Eternal Personal God. and are addressed to the intellect. taken separately. The Father is not the Son. for the devout can image each by a lively act of the imagination. 2. and ever has been. an affirmation that is beyond our full comprehension and that is to be accepted on faith. . the mind is directed to its own creations rather than to “things. “which have a place in the Ritual” and are “devotional acts .” The apprehension of a proposition. “the terms stand for things external to us” (1985: 13) insofar as there are impressions of those things in the imagination. the Spirit. and ever has been. it is not called a mystery in “Confession after confession. Newman says. But if the nine propositions are taken together as a “systematized whole. From the Father and Son is. therefore so is the apprehension of it” (1985: 31). The Son is not the Holy Ghost. But the “custom is otherwise.Benson Saler In the case of real propositions. . . varies in strength because. because the object is more powerful.” And in them. The Word or Son. From the Father is. Rather than digress to sketch the similarities (and differences). “what is concrete exerts a force and makes an impression on the mind which nothing abstract can rival. Nicaean. that is. 7. 9.” that combination “is the object of notional assent” (1985: 91).” though Popes and Councils “have found it their duty to insist afresh upon the dogma” (1985: 91). in contrast. consists of nine propositions. Newman’s distinction between “real” and “notional” beliefs resembles to some extent distinctions that certain contemporary philosophers draw between “de re” and “de dicto” beliefs (see for example Woodfield 1982: v–xi). Further. There are Three who give testimony in heaven. he relates. in Newman’s words. . moreover. In the case of notional propositions. The dogma of the Trinity. 4. and in such addresses. The Son is the One Eternal Personal God. the Father. “the mysteriousness of the doctrine is almost uniformly insisted on” (1985: 91). Nor is it termed a mystery in the Apostles’. Newman remarks that the Holy Trinity in Unity “is never spoken of as a Mystery in the sacred book. . according to Newman. and the Holy Spirit. the Son. 3. I focus instead on the applications that Newman makes of his own distinction to what his Church teaches about the Trinity. 8. These belong to particular ages and places. says Newman. The Father is the One Eternal Personal God. to speak of intellectual difficulties would be out of place” (1985: 90). which is addressed far more to the imagination and affection than to the intellect” (1985: 90).

. are they entirely harmonious with the somewhat different understandings of Westerners of yesteryear. Conventional Christian theological applications of those numbers to the Godhead contravene present-day. I think. opines that in speculating about “the Supreme Being. in secular perspective. The unfolding doctrine of the Trinity. and that the theologians whose doctrines about it became mainstream were guided by the Holy Spirit. and procreation – and. for that matter. . to those of us non-believers who have logged many hours in attendance at department meetings? In addition to the above problems. A major impetus to that development. personhood. who had difficulties with his brother. it violates our intuitions about living things. cognizant of that circumstance. as suggested earlier. . Closely related to that problem is the problem of reconciling the individuation of the Three Persons of the Trinity with their eternal and perfect unity in thought and action. it may be unmeaning. given the fan of understandings and hopes that motivated and constrained those efforts. Newman. there are others. a secular intellectual history of the doctrine takes a different tack. Thus even when the believer accepts it on authority that three individual divine Persons always act in complete agreement and concert. more broadly.” In short. identity. Numbers of theologians. was in large measure the unfolding of efforts to resolve that tension or paradox.The Ethnographer as Pontifex The Counter-intuitive While numbers of Christians maintain that the Trinity is a divine mystery revealed to finite human minds by God. for example. but to subject to number in regard to His own intrinsic characteristics. That is. do not fully jibe with the understandings that many contemporary Westerners entertain about the nature of individualism. attempted to do so in ways that would not challenge scriptural authority or jeopardize the possibility of human salvation. – 203 – . experience and folk belief-desire psychology testify that individuals often disagree in significant ways and pursue different ends. how might he or she explain it meaningfully to others – to Atahuallpa. was a certain tension or paradox in the canonical texts. the doctrine of the Trinity – the doctrine that the one true living God who created all else consists of three eternal Persons of the same substance who always act in perfect concert – is difficult to comprehend because it violates several of our work-a-day intuitions and expectations about numbers. moreover. A major problem is reconciling the Three with the One and the One with the Three. not only to number with other beings. In both cases. Nor. to apply arithmetical notions to Him may be as unphilosophical as it is profane” (1985: 39). The explications that Christian theologians furnish respecting the individuation of the three Persons. say. ordinary uses of numbers in the West and associated intuitions about numeration in our society. such as the problem of understanding (let alone translating) the concept of “eternal begetting. or. which presented Jesus as more than a man yet as distinct from God the Father.

among ideas for places in human memory – are those that strike an optimal cognitive balance between the intuitive and the counter-intuitive (1994: 121). Further.” it is sometimes claimed that predicate terms applied to divinity do not mean the same things that they mean when applied to human persons: that. And some of the predicate terms that are applied to the Persons of the Trinity (e. their harmony with expectations supported by ordinary – 204 – . God is “wise” not in the same way that Allen Greenspan is “wise. Predicates that might well apply to individual persons (e. at any rate. are not merely different sorts of “person.” “is contentious. if they complied with intuitions about ordinary events and states” (1994: 48). is one of the arguments of Pascal Boyer in his complex book.Benson Saler The Persons of the Trinity.” They violate a constellation of ontological assumptions – a constellation of assumptions in Western societies and. especially insofar as modern science transcends and subverts naive realism. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion. more broadly. for example. intangible yet capable of mechanical action on physical objects. Persons.g. aging and death do not affect certain beings. And it is often invoked to good effect in science fiction (Disch 1998). however. that structures expectations. “Religious notions would not be interesting. yet located in space. “perfect in knowledge. but. for instance. (1994: 35) Indeed.” “is malleable”) are doctrinally declared to be inapplicable to the Persons of the Trinity. among people in other societies – about persons and. does not mean that there is nothing intuitive or ordinary about religious ideas. would not be attention demanding. the sorts of religious ideas that will be transmitted from one generation to the next – the religious ideas that will prove successful in the competition. But it may well be so salient and consistent in the configuration and transmission of religious ideas as to mark them off from other ideas. Now. associated with modern science. This.” but in a special way applicable only to God. Their intuitiveness. the counter-intuitive plays important roles in human life. some entities are described as invisible. not only do religious representations violate intuitive expectations.” “unchangeable. and intentionality are individuated. where he observes that Religious representations typically comprise claims or statements that violate people’s ideas of what commonly takes place in their environment. are physical objects and therefore visible. As Boyer sees it. according to Pascal Boyer (1994). sentience. as exemplars of living things. and especially among those who champion “negative theology. For instance.g. so to speak. “is lustful. the “living God” of mainstream Christianity. more or less. Such. either individually or collectively. Their identity.” “one in understanding and purpose”) are not usually applied to human persons. about living things. a constellation of assumptions likely to be found. things fly in the air instead of falling to the ground. according to Boyer. It is. and so on.

and I would add that since we deal cross-culturally with resemblances rather than identities (Saler 1993. . and those ontologies provide us with a host of expectations and intuitions in all walks of life. While ideas. But their violation of such expectations. both explicit and tacit. domainspecific ontologies. I prefer to say natural resemblances) in human cognition. Boyer also attempts to account for “important recurrent features in the religious representations that can be found in very different cultural environments” (1994: vii–viii).” If the mix is right. their seeming intuitive unnaturalness “to the subjects who hold them” (1994: 3). that he is not postulating substantive universals in religious ideas (1994: 5). invests them with plausibility and renders them learnable. for instance. we humans develop rich. The “intuitive assumptions that are used in all religious representations. makes them interesting and “attention demanding. and a scrupulous translator will have to take pains to avoid obscuring important differences in relevant contexts. their contents are likely to be underdetermined by that process. Among other things.” Boyer (1994: 121) writes. Further. including the religious. The processes that we call socialization and enculturation do not account for the richness of many religious ideas. Individuals enhance their religious claims by – 205 – . 2000).The Ethnographer as Pontifex ontological assumptions and commitments. about witches in two societies may show appreciable conceptual overlap. In addition to attempting to account for the transmission of religious ideas. Suffice it for present purposes to foreground only certain features of his theorizing. These and other widely distributed cognitive resemblances both motivate and constrain the transmission of religious ideas. Boyer links his consideration of transmission processes with his appreciation of family resemblances among religious representations in different cultural settings. tend to distinguish between living things and artifacts and they develop similar general understandings of what is normal for each. in our attentions to the world. “provide the main substance of all inferences and conjectures. beyond our minimal recognition that in many human groups there are ideas “concerning non-observable. Boyer argues. He aspires to explain both by working toward a complex theory of the cognitive foundations of religious ideas. while religious ideas are subject to selective pressures in the transmission process. Boyer argues that there are universal features (following Needham 1972. they are more likely to be remembered and more likely to be transmitted to the next generation than ideas that are either unexceptional or entirely counter-intuitive. Rather. extra-natural agencies and processes[. I fully agree with that position.] . . however. He takes pains to point out. say. the similarities between religious ideas are a matter of family resemblance rather than universal features” (1994: 5). the problem of translating is all the more difficult. People throughout the world.” But they also constrain the acceptability of counterintuitive claims. there are also likely to be significant differences.

Boyer claims. and to respond in similarly orderly ways to the inferences of their fellows. describe and analyze beliefs in ways that mask. it enhances the prospects for warrantable explications of religious ideas across populations. This would account for the recurrence of certain religious ideas in diverse cultural settings. and artifact. moreover. minimize. I have in mind “translation” – good translation – very broadly conceived. And. The richness of religious ideas. however inchoate. Leach 1967).Benson Saler making inferences from their established ontological assumptions and expectations. Boyer suggests that on the level of such macro-categories as person. uninformed. Some anthropologists (e. Believers may not render their sense of the “unnatural” immediately explicit. emphasis added). however. in fact. plant. or explain away violations of the intuitive. – 206 – . and so can be expected to make similar inferences. is what Felipe of Puna did in mistranslating Fray Vicente’s profession of the doctrine of the Trinity: he added the numbers. in general argument and with the support of some ethnographic examples. of cross-cultural ethnographic data.g. of course. But intelligibility purchased at the cost of fidelity is not worth much. “in order to make himself understood” (1966: 682. That. people throughout the world have similar ontological assumptions and expectations. Perhaps I can make my widened understanding of translation clearer by briefly comparing it to translation in a narrower. thus seeming to render those beliefs less troublesome for their readers to apprehend and in some sense accept. I would add. on asking them to explicate and extend their assertions. Garcilaso tells us. in a crude. My suggestion that our ethnographies of religious ideas include explicit considerations of the counter-intuitive – and its dependence on the intuitive – is a facet of a more inclusive suggestion: that we strive for fidelity in a “global” sense. sparks the imagination and in that wise renders the beliefs attractive. On the basis. an apprehension of the unnatural or counter-intuitive. more conventional sense. and certain arguments advanced by evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychologists. but not apparently ideological fashion. perhaps because of their commitments in the “rationality” debate that has occupied the attentions of many of us. in my experience. I agree with Boyer’s general argument about the counter-intuitive. experimental studies of concept development in children. Boyer argues. animal. and I recommend that we attempt to capture and convey some appreciation of our informants’ sense of it – and of the intuitive structures that render it both possible and significant – in our ethnographies. but it can be fathomed. that religious believers themselves often sense something “unnatural” or counter-intuitive in their beliefs – that. therefore need not depend on exhaustive cultural transmissions.

there was not only the hope of benefiting the souls of the Indians. however. or use with great care suitably dignified expressions in the old language or else lay hands on the many words the cultured and scholarly Indians have taken from Spanish and introduced into their own languages. I am aware that some anthropologists suggest that Evans-Pritchard’s explication of that term is biased by his personal religious proclivities. at any rate. Garcilaso had an interest in good translation. it may be recalled.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Garcilaso’s Solution and Explication The chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega.” Garcilaso wrote. his readers. but also concern for minimizing stresses stemming from the incorporation of the conquered into a new order. Translation is always motivated. may – 207 – . “they have to seek new words or phrases. If by “translation” we mean translation in the narrow sense sketched above. I think. however. he demonstrates the polysemy of kwoth. These are conventional instruments of translation in a narrow sense. the form of his explication deserves admiration on two counts. and to adapt loan words. to evaluate that claim. His father was a conquistador. Regardless of possible inaccuracies or other deficiencies in the contents of what he writes. and his mother was an Inka noble. should subsume translation in explication. a second cousin to Atahuallpa. Garcilaso’s solution is to coin new terms and expressions. it is inadequate for anthropological purposes. and he makes efforts to deal with it in ways that we. I do not know enough about the case. in my opinion the task of the ethnographer is explication rather than “translation” in the narrow sense of glossing expressions in one language with terms from another or with freshly minted neologisms. to use with great care possible correspondences (glosses) across languages. then the anthropologist. First. When Spanish interpreters of “these times. In Garcilaso’s case. and they can be productive where the translator is sensitive and skilled. Our intellectual grasp and appreciation of key terms will be enhanced by an understanding of the domains with which they are associated in native usages. Although the solution endorsed by Garcilaso may serve for purposes of religious conversion (or. the appearance of religious conversion). and even though his examination may not be exhaustive. adapting them to their own ways of speech” (1988: 682). A well-known example of explication is found in Evans-Pritchard’s (1956) discussion of the Nuer term kwoth. Garcilaso himself traced roots to both the Indians and the Spaniards. Such explication involves the examination of contexts in which targeted expressions occur and the analysis of any encountered polysemy. Evans-Pritchard examines how the term is used in different contexts. Indeed. was concerned with how Christian ideas might be “adequately” expressed to Peruvian Indians. wish to express Christian ideas adequately.

he alerts us generally to how a sensitivity to tropes might expand our understandings of religious terms and expressions. weighted. which may well vary from hedged or weak affirmations to those that seem vigorous and confident. Such conveyance. should be made to assess the relative strength of professions of belief. They are also inevitably motivated.Benson Saler comprehend. In addition to using that audience’s “ordinary language. It amounts to a task of mediation or bridge-building between disparate but not entirely incompatible clusters of understandings. is required. moreover. It is. what he or she has come to understand about religious ideas studied in the field to an audience (often largely of other anthropologists though sometimes a wider audience) that lacks comparable knowledge and experience of the field situation. are specially refined and often contested versions of Western folk categories (see Saler 2000 [1993] for “religion”). the determination and exploration of relevant and revealing tropes. something of a secular analog to what some religious communities expect of their priests. I think. Second. in any case. for not everyone in a given population may do so. and so enlarge and potentially improve the translation task. moreover. his explication is alive to the significance of tropes. as accurately and as cogently as possible. is attempted in the language of the eventual target audience. indeed. and systematic efforts to make explicit what is significantly implicit. and although his fame in that regard largely rests on his analysis of the “twins are birds” metaphor. These efforts will collectively support and make more convincing the anthropologist’s theorizing about the functions of religious ideas in discrete populations and in human history. conveyance depends on the artful and problem-plagued application and adjustment of categories from different sources. Efforts at global fidelity are not solely focused on the human population under study. both with respect to the intuitive structures and understandings that support the plausibility of religious ideas and the counter-intuitive features of those ideas that render them memorable. In short. Explication of categories and ideas encountered in the field. sources that themselves answer to different interests.” explication is also likely to involve the so-called professional analytical categories of anthropologists. Serious efforts should also be made to learn who professes or endorses the reported ideas. Yet more. and constrained by considerations relating to the eventual target audience of the ethnographic monograph. in the overwhelming majority of cases. – 208 – . The ethnographer has the difficult task of conveying. Attempts. constitutes “translation” in that term’s fundamental etymological senses: “transfer” and “transformation”. Efforts to achieve “global” fidelity in the ethnography of religious ideas are efforts at explication that include discussion of the environments and likely polysemy of important religious terms. the readership of the ethnographic monograph. And these.

“sea. of ethnographic monographs. a bridge over the Tiber River that was invested with a sacred significance (Bailey 1932: 162). new understandings of others and perhaps of themselves.” to the Sanskrit pánthah. Ethnographers not only depend on analogies in their descriptions. Emile Benveniste (1971 [1966]: 255–256) relates the Latin pons and the Greek pontos. bridge + facio. of bridging two domains. The major purpose of ethnographic bridges. metaphorically. In ancient Rome the term pontifex (pl. Benveniste writes. “explains the diversity of the documented variants. the divine and the human. . one of several terms in Vedic texts for “road. . and I use the term pontifex analogously here.” Although we may start with the sense of “road” as crossing associated with the Sanskrit term pánthah. it is only one of the realizations of the general signification defined here.The Ethnographer as Pontifex The Ethnographer as Pontifex Dictionaries and other sources in English generally state that the “literal” meaning of pontifex is “bridge-builder. “pons will designate the ‘crossing’ of a stream of water or a dip in the ground. The ethnographer is. the laws governing the state cult.. it can vary depending on who is traversing it . because they may have had charge of the Pons Sublicius. . uncertainty. By the time of the late Republic they numbered sixteen. to do or to make. a “bridge-builder. a ‘crossing’ attempted over an unknown and often hostile region .” one charged with the task of facilitating a “crossing” into the sensibilities and sensitivities of others. Benveniste opines. but they – 209 – .” A bridge crosses something.” some classicists speculate. and they administered the ius divinum. In contemporary Roman Catholic sources the symbolism of bridge-building. And among the building materials utilized to construct such bridges. hence a ‘bridge’. There were probably three members in the days of the monarchy. and they advised the king on religious matters.” Its sense of crossing rather than road.” from the Latin pons. but that term was eventually reserved for the Bishop of Rome. They were termed “bridge-builders. It is indeed . is often made explicit. “this sense is no more ‘primordial’ than the others. it has unforeseen detours. creatively figured analogies and glosses are salient. and danger. “implies difficulty. . pontifices) was applied to the members of a college of priests. the leader of whom was called pontifex maximus. and it may facilitate our crossing. is to allow the reading public to cross over to new understandings. An analogy is a way of establishing resemblances between things that otherwise differ. In the early Christian church a bishop was termed pontifex. .” That particular Sanskrit term for “road. . which included the regulation of the official calendar.” Thus in a Latin approximation to the realization of such a general signification.” he writes. the Pope.

the expression is holistically meaningful. Numbers of populations. has accrued from our failures to prepare the ground profoundly enough on our side of the divide. Malinowski’s gloss ‘flying witches’ is inadequate by itself. The gloss is plausible in these ways: First. we would do well to remember that bridges normally have two anchoring foundations. although it is plausible both analytically and holistically. I think. when broken down into its components. but not because of the gloss itself. for example. Still and all. 1922) of the gloss ‘flying witches’ for the Kiriwinian term mulukwausi. We identify flying as a mode of locomotion. and they can be problematic in ways that are similar to those of other forms of analogy. that is. despite its overlap with our ideas. however. have no term or category for what we call “religion. He provides us with an explication of certain relevant Trobriand ideas. Take a case put to me by the editors: Malinowski’s use (in Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Glosses can be viewed as lexical analogies. If we suppose that there is warrant to construct bridges of some sort to span the semantic chasms that separate us from others. Has Malinowski. And that. – 210 – . for example. typically fly on broomsticks. Much mischief. The Wizard of Oz. As I put it elsewhere. (Saler 1993: 124–125). Religion. “actually captured the meaning” of the Trobriand concept to which his gloss refers? I think that he has.” but the ethnographer recognizes “religion” in their societies by observing local assertions and other behaviors reminiscent of what he or she deems to be religious behaviors elsewhere. That is. with the consequence that their analogies might not be as detailed nor as cogent as they could be. I am asked. I think that some students of religion have done a better job of exploring the religious categories of other peoples than have those of the populations for which they write. since in our time Wicca. those resonate with our understandings. is established by analogy. whereas those of the Fang of Cameroon typically fly on banana leaves [Boyer 1994]). And we identify witches as malevolent beings who utilize magical means to harm others (although I suspect that the term was somewhat less ambiguous in Malinowski’s day. for the idea of flying witches is well established among us. Second. Fortunately. suggests an important question: analogy to what? Ironically enough. of course.Benson Saler are beholden to them in recognizing problems and interests. and by so doing justifies his gloss. and certain television serials and cartoons support the understanding that not all witches are bad). one on either side of what they span. Malinowski supplies more than a gloss. and it is an idea that occurs in many other societies. there are family resemblances among the flying-witch representations in numbers of cultural settings (our witches.

there is reasonable hope that such barriers can be overcome. of courses. – 211 – . of course. The types of knots. By referring to these records. Indeed. The quipu was a mnemonic device consisting of knots of different kinds tied in various positions on strings. And. children. Garcilaso de la Vega does what good historians normally do: he supports his narrative by citing sources for it. Indeed. however. as Boyer’s work suggests. “Know thyself!” Such difficulties in understanding may help explain why even persons accounted to be non-religious sometimes avail themselves of priests. we cannot honestly claim full comprehension of our spouses. lest we forget. But there are degrees of approximation. Yet. their locations. For the most part. More is required if we are to cross over to warrantable understandings. They aver. perhaps the most difficult to obey is the Delphic Imperative. “translating” (“glossing”) in a narrow sense is unlikely to suffice for anthropological purposes. There are. Some persons claim that adequate translation is impossible. indeed. A collection of quipus. of all the commandments that humanity has saddled itself with. parents. those difficulties are extensions of the difficulties that we encounter in understanding others in our own society. to be sure. strikes me as too pessimistic a point of view. a desideratum and an ambition. was in effect a sort of archive. we also experience genuine difficulty in understanding ourselves. they are rendered complex by the necessity of dealing with newly encountered lexicons and grammars. We would do well to remind ourselves that even where we suppose that we control the language and are familiar with the culture.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Again. Note 1. unlikely ever to be achieved in full. and colleagues. let alone the Three Persons of the Trinity. sometimes with apparent if only limited – but nevertheless gratifying – success. The “global fidelity” of which I have spoken is. we encounter difficulties in understanding. that attempts at bridge-building or crossing-over are inevitably and fatally subverted by cultural barriers encoded in language. if not completely then sufficiently enough to satisfy most of our needs. and we should aim for the maximum possible. That. however. and their syntactic relations to other knots were assigned semantic values that stimulated and constrained the memories of specially trained personnel. difficulties in crossing over the barriers of language and culture. As extensions. but we go on trying. as at Cajamarca.

Unpublished Ph. Disch. Evans-Pritchard. v–xi. and Unbounded Categories. Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press. 1975. Alan Lee. Thomas M. Brian K. 1987. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1971 [1966]. Austin: University of Texas Press. Nuer Religion. Saler. Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru. Book IV. Pascal. 1998. trans. A Cognitive Theory of Religion. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Needham. trans. Kolp. Harold V. Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas. New York: Dover.Benson Saler References Aquinas. 1985 [1889. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World. Participation: A Unifying Concept in the Theology of Athanasius. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. – 212 – . Bronislaw. Problems in General Linguistics. Leiden: E. Thomas. Edward E. 1983. Language. Benson. Placher. trans. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. 2000 [1993].” History of Religions 27(1). William C. Emile. John Henry. Bailey. Garcilaso de la. Malinowski. pp. John. 1932. Paperback Edition with a new Preface. Locke. Smith. Andrew Woodfield (ed. “Exorcising the Transcendent: Strategies for Defining Hinduism and Religion. Rodney. 1967. dissertation.D. 1956. Benveniste. Leach. Andrew. 1982. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. J. New York: E. Dutton. 1994. Newman. 1972.” In Thought and Object: Essays on Intentionality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Woodfield. Brill.Transcendent Natives. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press. 1961 [1922]. Boyer. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Part Two. El Inca. “Virgin Birth”. pp. 32–55. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists. 1966. Berkeley: The University of California Press. Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1966: 39–49. Mary Elizabeth Meek. Cyril. “Foreword. and Experience. Oxford: Clarendon. Oxford: Clarendon. New York: The Free Press.). O’Neil. Charles J. 1870]. Summa contra gentiles. 1975. 1959 [1689]. Livermore. P. Harvard University. Vega. Edmund. Belief. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

more or less. In short. then we go back a fictional 5759 years. Editorials. Rabbi Simlai once quipped that translation is an impossible task: “He who translates is a heretic but he who refuses to translate is a blasphemer. But the process of producing these mystic meanings is deeply involved in the translation of Biblical texts into new idioms and the hermeneutic process in general.–9– Text Translation as a Prelude for Soul Translation Alan F. In all its various editions and versions. it is. Translation as a literary art is an ancient and complicated issue in biblical studies. But the problems with understanding the Bible come from its very ubiquity. Yet the Bible is not really the book we think it is. an anthology of little books (its name in Greek. the Bible is a very strange and exotic book that does not share many of our moral and cultural assumptions directly. If the creation is taken as its starting point.” No book is more important to Western civilization than the Bible and no book has been more often or more self-consciously translated. I intend to investigate some of the strangest literature of the ancient world. Scholarship has been able to isolate the time and – 213 – . where the metaphor of translation to heaven also expresses a biblical concept of ecstasy. literary works. Everyone thinks that he or she understands it because powerful contemporary social institutions continually convince us of its relevance. it still outsells every other book. Ta Biblia. advertisements and even cartoons remind us of the Bible’s importance to our culture and society. But let us start with its plain meaning before we get to its mystic meaning. If Genesis 12 be taken as the beginning of history in the Bible. then the book can be said to cover history from about the Eighteenth Century BCE. Sermons in churches and synagogues are largely devoted to the argument that the Bible does and should apply directly to our lives. literally means “the little books”) stretching from approximately 1300 BCE (or BC) to the First Century of our era. first of all. Segal Bible Translation and Translation to Heaven I will deliberately confuse two different uses of translation – (1) a meaning carried from one language to another with (2) a soul carried from earth to heaven.

To scholars. innovations sometimes great enough to call forth a new divine revelation for justification. Innovations too were often hidden in the translation. The Vulgate. meaning interpretation or figuratively. leaving Latin only for later official correspondence. as the language of the dominant power changed. For instance. but this merely underlines the remarkable success of the process. The history of Bible translation itself shows us the constant need of translation. The purpose of these translations was to render clearly passages that seemed obscure to a community whose tongue had evolved – first to a new dialect. became the Scripture of Western European Christianity until the Reformation. who have made a selection about what the collection should contain and occasionally supplied hints about their varying and sometimes contradictory principles of composition and goals. the passage of time itself naturally raises the issue of translation and hermeneutics for any scriptural community. Israel fell under the domination of the Babylonians. Just as with the passage of time itself. and a definitive translation into Greek. Ptolemy Philadelphos. though in the land of Israel there is evidence that educated people spoke all three. new translations of the Bible’s text became necessary to allow the scriptural community access to it. then to a new language and finally to a new language family.Alan F. called the Septuagint (from the word “70” in Latin. Translation or the hermeneutic process generally gives us the impression of the Bible’s timeliness. a Latin translation of the LXX. the Bible is hardly a unity in either composition or purpose. so “septuagints” were in use there even before this famous story of its composition circulated: According to legend. interpretative “retranslation. the Greeks. the Persians. Thus. successor to the Pharaohs and descendant of Alexander the Great’s general. hence abbreviated LXX and really a series of different texts too) was used in the Jewish community by the Third Century BCE. This process can be exemplified within the Bible itself as well as in all the important translations of the Bible’s text throughout the ages. Translations of the Bible into Aramaic. though still a long time by historical reckoning. called Targums. being an anthology. Segal reasons for some of the contents of the Bible. the Bible would seem to us a very strange and unusual work. As history progressed. But it is an illusion that has gone on since the Bible was assembled and it is an illusion that has a decent future in front of it. demonstrating that it was written over a much shorter period than it claims. So our notion that it applies to us and has a message for us is the result of a constant process of hermeneutics.” Without this constant process of translation and hermeneutics. and the Romans. the Greek-speaking Jewish community of Alexandria in Hellenistic Egypt could not understand the Hebrew of the original document. it has editors. Rather. These empires ruled Palestine through Aramaic and then Greek mostly. an illusion purchased at the expense of historical accuracy. wanted to know the seemingly – 214 – .

the ancient translations are at best tricky tools. For anyone who knows academia this miracle ranks with the creation of the world. especially anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms. Various important ways of dealing with God’s attributes or appearances or physical shape were developed. and even Aquinas’ summae could be couched as biblical commentaries. He could certainly have derived that rule from studying the Septuagint. had he known enough Hebrew to compare the two. With this flimsy justification. By a miracle they all came up with the same translation. posited that in commenting one must guard against saying anything unworthy of God. Neither the Septuagints nor the Targums are notably literal in their rendering of Hebrew syntax or concepts. of course. the innovations in religious conceptions which were hidden inside the new document. Philo’s allegorical theory remained the dominant method for interpreting scripture in the West and certainly helped explain how his. The Septuagint was in some ways a more controlled translation but in other ways it was equally a commentary. were often rendered in more abstract form – though not entirely. He also said that everything in the Bible could be understood allegorically but only some things could be understood literally – a rather modern hermeneutic strategy. The Targums could be quite literal. Difficult or primitive notions. a wealthy and important Alexandrian Jewish Bible commentator of the First Century. If Scripture were going to be the only authority and – 215 – . But Philo’s work shows us something else important – how the translation was accepted and used and with what freedom the translation could be taken.1 Although contemporary biblical scholarship values the skill and consistency of the translations of the Targums and the LXXs as important witnesses to ancient understanding of the Bible’s refractory text. building 70 small offices to be filled with the most skilled translators. often making simple word-for-word translation feasible. Many targumic passages resemble midrash as much as translation. Maimonides’. preventing easy generalizations about the LXX’s theory of translation. Orthographic conventions in some LXX versions seem to be based on the Palestinian custom of not pronouncing God’s name. It also justified the still suspect process of translation and. since Aramaic is grammatically and lexically close to Hebrew. the meturgemans often produced rather long elaborations. we can skip to the Reformation when a more literal school of biblical translation came into vogue. The writers of the LXX allowed themselves less freedom than Philo allotted to himself. He therefore commissioned a school of advanced studies on Pharos Island in the Nile delta. the meturgemans noticeably even introduced technical names for God’s hypostases into the text to avoid saying anything which might seem primitive or uncomplimentary about God. Even so. Philo Judaeus.Text Translation/Soul Translation secret truths of the Jews. presumably as the result of their sensitivity to something in the ancient text. And there is no doubt that the LXX was also a profound reinterpretation of the meaning of the Hebrew text.

For a while. – 216 – . . The translation of the Hebrew ‘almah by the LXX parthenos is not necessarily wrong. every aspect of Bible translation has been studied and reviewed thousands of times. especially in Departments of Near Eastern Studies around the world. Why had the Hebrew text used ‘almah. as understood by the Vulgate. it has some justification for its word choice because the young woman in Hebrew was already previously translated as parthenos in Greek. Of course. so it represents an opportunity for pinning on a new doctrine. is a moot point. Indeed. rather. Otherwise. their focus was turned not to the translation itself but the force of the Hebrew. Although the Vulgate is clearly reflecting NT doctrine. the temple to the virgin Athena). Most contemporary Bible translations are as slavishly literal as the two languages will allow. then Scripture would have to be provided in a form that every believer could immediately apprehend.2 But in Hebrew the “virgin” is merely a young woman (‘almah). In going from the Jewish community to a gentile community (the vector being Hellenistic Judaism and then early Christian preaching). For instance. . Whether or not the virgin birth arose as a mistranslation. the doctrine would have to be validated in other ways. a word which usually but not always means virgin (like the Parthenon. in place of the ordinary na’arah. the meaning of the text changed radically to resonate in an environment where the sexual relations between gods and virgins signalled the birth of a hero. It is in that context that I wish to bring you two different problems in translation – one quite short. when the Christian community responded to the Jewish charge that the doctrine was based on a mistranslation. so I will simplify wherever possible. which translated the verse into Latin as: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child . thus the Hebrew says only that a girl will conceive and bear a child.” (virgo concipiet et pariet filium). which clearly and unambiguously means young woman? Could it be that ‘almah meant virgin after all?3 That pattern is exemplary of many hermeneutical problems in scriptural religions: every significant translation problem also conceals an even more significant problem in changing cultural forms or religious ideas because so much can hinge on one verse of scripture. Of course. This New Testament doctrine is proof-texted in Isaiah 7:14. We shall return to this paradigm later. a relatively rare term. In our postmodern world this seems naively optimistic.Alan F. in the Second Century. however. the other very complex – in an attempt to point to some methodological issues. doctrinal. for instance directly with a new prophetic revelation. comparative Semitics and intense word studies were considered the basic method for removing dogmatic. let us take the famous example of the Virgin Birth. Segal the believer the ultimate judge. and denominational biases. the Greek translation provided the possibility for the development of a new meaning: The Greek translated parthenos for ‘almah and then the NT doctrine arose with the translation already in place. this process stimulated and then was furthered by the development of “scientific” or disinterested criticism of the Bible.

haphazardly preserved. In this respect many are miles behind the methodological sophistication achieved in Anthropology but. it is impossible to understand how Christianity gained the authority to reevaluate scripture without beginning with the Christian notion of the presence of the Holy Spirit – the spirit of prophecy. textual scholars have more difficulty squeezing information out of refractory. but certainly often a RASC – within the early Christian community. often in RASC. for short) or religiously interpreted states of consciousness (RISC. whether granting the validity of the religious experience or not. Matt 19:1–12. For instance. in the prophecy of Daniel 12:2f.4 The Bible often records that its texts were received by inspired prophecies of various kinds. for short). Good examples would be Jesus’ hardline preaching about divorce (Mk 10:1–12. like the stars forever and ever. and some to shame and everlasting contempt. want to explain religious phenomena in rational terms.** and those who lead many to righteousness. in fairness. either from Jesus directly in the Gospels or from his disciples and apostles. RASC is often the description of the native actor. while RISC is a term which would satisfy any modern observer. including states of consciousness which are often suspiciously “abnormal” to moderns. justifying changes in translation and interpretation. (Daniel 12:2) * or the land of dust ** or dome – 217 – . if you will. where Peter has an ecstatic vision). Thus. some to everlasting life. Novel interpretations were legitimated by direct revelation. Claims to religiously altered states of consciousness are an especially difficult question for modern religious exegetes who either want to show that their own religion is rational or.Text Translation/Soul Translation Inspired Texts and Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky. they help us understand how change enters religious communities. at least. a Problem of Cultural Translation The major problem which I want to bring up is how modern scholars and religious persons interpret and translate terms indicating religiously altered states of consciousness (RASC. Jesus takes the authority to change the law himself) or Peter’s vision that all food was suitable for Christian consumption (Acts 10:9–29. like the legend of the LXX. its belated presence required special revelatory authority: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth* shall awake.5 Any detailed notion of an afterlife had been banished for so long from biblical literature that when it appeared for the first time. and often fragmentary ancient texts than field workers have squeezing out of unco-operative informants. But I will try to show that RISC and RASC were not only very important in Hebrew thought but.

as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is. Then he wrote down the dream. From my perspective then. face to the ground. his eyes like flaming torches. for the full three weeks. His body was like beryl. But the notion of resurrection needs an even greater justification. as dreams are being used to justify the revelatory nature of the information gained. My strength left me. I fell into a trance [italics added]. not the usual method for the literary prophets. a religiously altered state of consciousness (RASC): At that time I. had been mourning for three weeks. and when I heard the sound of his words. though a great trembling fell upon them. and told the sum of the matter” (Daniel 7:1). Sheol is very often parallel simply to “the grave” in Hebrew poetry. (Daniel 10:2–10) This experience is like the previous dream in that it is being interpreted as a religious experience but it is clearly a higher and more potent form of religious experience in the opinion of the narrator. Segal This passage essentially outlines a novel idea. I take this to be an example of a religiously interpreted state of consciousness (RISC). though we would not usually grant them prophetic power. Resurrection and translation to heaven followed by astral immortality for some of the leaders entered Israelite thought together. It is revealed not in a dream but in an ecstatic vision (hayyπι niRdam). Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. a place of darkness much like Hades. I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen. we certainly grant that ordinary people have dreams. and they fled and hid themselves. since the story of Joseph. Such a major change in a scripturally based religion takes a very special kind of justification. which culminates in some of the leaders (“those who are wise”) being transformed into angels. Before this the dead were usually thought to go to Sheol. the people who were with me did not see the vision. But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. the Tigris). resurrection. Daniel 7 represents the new dispensation as having arrived in revelatory dream visions. with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. In fact. the apocalyptic literature of the first centuries BCE and CE (or BC and AD) may credibly be understood as having developed out of real visions (RASCs) and dreams (RISCs). Like the ancient world. Daniel. and my complexion grew deathly pale. Then I heard the sound of his words. and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. as the stars were conventionally understood as a kind of angel (See Judges 3:20 and Job 38:7). Daniel. and I retained no strength. alone saw the vision. I. no meat or wine had entered my mouth. and I had not anointed myself at all. Daniel thus needs a new revelation to promulgate his new ideas: “In the first year of Belshaz’zar king of Babylon.Alan F. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month. his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze. I had eaten no rich food. – 218 – . his face like lightning. So I was left alone to see this great vision. but certainly well known as a medium for God’s Word.

Like Daniel. conservatives. Gullup and Castelli 1989). – 219 – . The biggest differences in American religions today are to be found between the liberal and mainline denominations on the one hand and the evangelicals. 1984. Peter Schäfer. For instance. he never adequately described what he meant by “mysticism. (Schäfer 1981. Ephraim Urbach. questioned whether the texts themselves claimed actual mystical experience (Urbach 1967). and Jews. But scholars also have scholarly and well-documented reasons for their skepticism of these revelations. certainly believed that there was a continuous tradition of RASC and RISC in Judaism. even though some modern religious skeptics might doubt the reality of the experience and modern religionists might want to translate the religious experience into more rational terms that can be more readily accepted by a modern religious audience. and fundamentalist groups do. it is natural to suspect that the experience narrated in them is equally spurious. as the texts maintain. 1991). He suggested that especially the talmudic texts had no original mystical content and that the rabbis themselves practiced no more than “ascetic ecstasy” (whatever that may mean). and Jews (Gallup and Proctor 1982. For the faithful. not between Protestants. the vast majority of the apocalyptic documents are pseudonymously attributed to patriarchal and antediluvian biblical heroes. Catholics. Then too.Text Translation/Soul Translation which provide the basic authority and justification for the innovation. Since we know that the attribution to Daniel. Catholics. Abraham. Adam. Belief in a literal resurrection is one of the most obvious and clear indicators of that gulf: liberal and mainline denominations do not take the ancient ideas literally while the conservative. I will show that some believing Jews and Christians and many modern scholars have remained skeptical about their revelatory content. Although Daniel and most subsequent apocalypses describe a variety of revelatory experiences. and fundamentalists on the other. Merkabah mysticism.6 And certainly few modern scholars would admit that the seers actually took trips to heaven. suggested that the basic early mystical texts are considerably younger in their present form than Scholem thought and contain little visionary material. who virtually invented the field of Jewish mysticism as an object of study. writing on the later hekhaloth (“Palaces”) material in Jewish. since many Americans prefer their religion rational. The History of the Study of Biblical RISC and “Jewish Mysticism” Although Gershom Scholem. This applies equally to Protestants. evangelical. Ezra and the rest must be spurious. Paul and the prophets are often more comfortably treated as social critics and theologians rather than as ecstatic preachers and visionaries.”7 This left room for scholars of Judaism of a more rational persuasion to demur. in a famous article in the Scholem Festschrift. apocalyptic truths can be doubted because many apocalyptic books are not part of the canon.

the throne chariot which Ezekiel saw (Ez 1) and which carried a figure which the text calls “the Glory of the Lord” (Ez 1:26). But it is easy to slip from this into the illusion that we can explain the ascension materials in the apocalypses and the Hekhalot by pointing to the supposed reality of the experience underlying them. Events experienced as real do have real consequences for the people experiencing them. of course. whereas. he remains unreceptive to the notion that there was any religious experience present in these texts. this hallucinatory “experience” itself cries out for explanation. the one scholar who perspicaciously noticed a continuous mystical tradition in Judaism – all the more remarkable as modern Jews overwhelmingly wanted to present Judaism as a rational religion based on a revealed law. mean that they “really” ascended to heaven. He did not.” Martha Himmelfarb’s research is also characteristic of the reaction to Scholem’s valorization of the ecstatic dimension of Jewish mysticism. Halperin criticized Scholem for thinking that the texts could have any valid religious experience. But she takes this scepticism about RASC backward in time to the Jewish and Christian apocalypses of the first few centuries. on this fundamental issue Scholem’s position is the more rational. but that they “really” believed that they had done so. she eliminates any of these texts from consideration because they are mystical texts or philosophical treatises and not Jewish or Christian apocalypses. They were a kind of faulty exegesis or even hallucination: Scholem’s stress on the reality of the Merkabah mystics’ ecstatic experiences can be misleading. This fallacy seems to me to dog much of Scholem’s presentation. The forced choice between hallucination and exegesis is fallacious. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (1993). In her relatively recent book. see also his 1980) makes innumerable new and very fine points about the development of the tradition of the Merkabah (mrkbh). However. He begins by narrating a conversation between him and his teacher Isadore Rabinowitz. Though she admits the widespread presence and valorization of visionary experience in Hellenistic culture in general and in Philo Judaeus. eliminating many apocalypses where ecstasy – 220 – .8 Every scholar right now must begin with a critique of Gershom Scholem. She further restricts her purview only to those texts which explicitly discuss ascent. 7) In spite of Halperin’s many accomplishments in this book. Segal David Halperin’s The Faces of the Chariot (1988. in which he decides to begin the project of the book by distinguishing between the “true” and “false” exegeses of Ezekiel 1. she follows David Halperin’s and Peter Schäfer’s skepticism of actual visionary experience in the hekhaloth texts. even if they are influenced by exegesis and even if they seem to us “hallucinations” because they recount events which we assume to be impossible or which take place only “internally. (p. indeed more rational than Christianity. of course.Alan F.

with no apparent difference. based on the notion that the ascent can be explained in the apocalypses purely in a literary way. rejected soundly. 114)9 This position thoroughly confuses the experience of the creators of the text with that of the readers. Even the exceptionally well-reasoned book of Moshe Idel. her conception is rather similar to thinking that the Virgin Birth is purely a translation problem and reflects no social realities in Hellenistic Judaism and the early Church. we should read the text as merely conforming to a literary convention. In place of religious experience. If I read them correctly. is to my way of thinking incorrect in a number of ways. they taught their readers to imagine themselves like Enoch.” which is a slippery category. no claim for actual religious ritual or ascent]. for telling the story is enough. therefore as a totally literary motif and not mystical. I think. based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13f and 2 Thessalonians 2. In the midst of an often unsatisfactory daily life. In the process she eliminates a good many valuable examples of RISC or RASC experience from consideration. recitation itself has become the ritual. She then maintains that wherever the texts say that the seer is having a religious experience. Reading them was not a ritual act. Their stories performed no task. and is not in any way under the control of the mystagogue. that goes beyond anything found in the Bible and was profoundly appealing to ancient Jews and Christians. of the status of the righteous in the universe. which I will try to correct as we go along. and they effected nothing outside the mind of the reader. the early apocalypses were merely literary creations. needs to be carefully considered and. was unable to dissuade her. for it is only an hypothesis. Her dismissal of ecstasy.Text Translation/Soul Translation is claimed and the contents of the heavens or divine plans for history are discussed without an explicit ascent narrative. the era of the great rabbis of the Mishnah. For Himmelfarb. (p. No such claim can be made for the ascent apocalypses [I. There is no religious experience in the texts at all: No need for the mystic to ascend. their most important accomplishment was to suggest an understanding of human possibility. Himmelfarb suggests we talk only about a literary motif of “rapture. To begin with. like the glorious ones. The actual performance of the acts is attributed to a mystic past. But this term itself is confusing because “rapture” is the same term that especially Christian fundamentalists use to describe the salvation of the just at the apocalypse. Himmelfarb’s position is not naive rationalism. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (1989) which forcefully demonstrates that meditative experiences were regularly sought by Jewish mystics. This hypothesis. e. The readers of the texts did not even use them to ascend vicariously to the heavens through the process of reading. the purpose of which was to give solace to a demoralized community. She uses this term because she wishes to emphasize that the heavenly journey comes unbidden. not by mystical praxis. which is where stories always perform their work. – 221 – .

– 222 – . It does not immediately relegate the writing to fraud and fiction – even in the way that. for example. even if they presuppose journeys which are literally impossible? At first. We cannot automatically move from written word to the narrator’s state of mind. Nor can we question an actual adept as we might in contemporary fieldwork. but without knowing some things about the writer it is often very hard to specify what kind of irony it is. narrated the case of a sorcerer who candidly admitted to tricking the audience. Yet. Categories of authenticity are seldom simple. one cannot merely doubt the religious value of a text because of modern skepticism about the possibility of ascending to heaven as is so often reported in ancient Jewish texts. The question which Himmelfarb asks therefore boils down to one of religious authenticity: are they religious texts or are they frauds. historical novels pretending to be the actual religious experience of prophets in the way that Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe pretends to be the journal entries of a shipwrecked sailor? Is there any religious experience behind the texts or are they merely novels. Pseudonymous authorship does not automatically disqualify the work from being religious or accurate or real experience and certainly does not render a text useless. The question is really that of what is being claimed for the experience and of how the claims are validated and competing claims adjudicated. We live in a world where we cannot actually be sure that we all experience the color red in the same way.10 Lévi-Strauss. develop a little more sophistication in dealing with the question of pseudonymity and authenticity.Alan F. the whole question seems inappropriate. not in Palestine in the Second Century by Rabbi Simon bar Yohai and his circle. Because of Scholem. we know that the Zohar was written in Spain in the Thirteenth Century by Moses of León and his circle. To do so we must equally doubt all ancient texts. Pseudonymity and Fraud in RISC We must. That does not mean that it is not important for understanding the religiosity of the Thirteenth Century. even the ones which Himmelfarb accepts as revelatory. say. Segal We must be clear about something very fundamental: we cannot ever know the experience of another directly. fraudulently purporting to be from the ancient personages to whom they are ascribed? Can the scholar imagine that these experiences were legitimate and authentic. Carlos Castaneda’s books are now regarded. first of all. Authenticity is very similar. in his famous seminal essay “the Sorcerer and his Magic” (1983). The question is not what the experience is in itself. in a novel or poem. How much more so in the case of experience narrated in text. We can sense irony. All we have are the texts. Yet. The sincerity of any historical writer is extremely hard if not impossible to evaluate without more extra-literary evidence.

especially in societies and cultures where such events are expected. RASC and RISC were regular features of pre-literary Israelite prophetic culture. On the other hand. both consonant and dissonant. People learn what is expected of certain roles. The rules and clues within the society differ.11 All of these issues seem to say that religious experiences can be faked easily and frequently by people wishing to claim the charismatic authority that comes from revelation. the pre-literary prophets. anthropological literature is full of examples of the ways cultures can distinguish between effectiveness and sincerity of ecstatics and healers. depending on whether possession or trance is expected of revelations and. a lesser-known but very important prophet. Furthermore. the perpetrator of a fraud can still think that his healings or visions are valid. although there were some strict conventions about conceptualizing them. and also people do have unbidden RASCs not under their conscious control. People in many traditional societies are quite sophisticated in discovering feigned possession and insanity. about the relationship between technique. and Elisha are merely the most famous. sincerity. where he will die (1 Kings 22:19–23). During the process. In other words. could receive messages from God by paranormal means. On the other hand. But usually the practitioner in the end learns to think of his or her contribution as sincere if the role played is highly regarded in the society.12 In this narrative RASC is described among the bands of prophets who were Micaiah’s rivals as – 223 – . a brief history is in order. The earliest prophets in Israelite history. (Ripinsky-Naxon 1993). Elijah. The conclusion of the deliberation is that God appoints a spirit to mislead all his legitimate prophets so as to ensnare Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead.Text Translation/Soul Translation even in this case. there is a clear process of socialization where the practitioner comes to learn what is expected of him or her by the guild and the populace. it also suggests that the qualifications for real vision do not entirely depend on what the subject intends at the time. In 1 Kings 22 Micaiah ben Imlah. alternatively. God’s Word could come to prophets through a variety of paranormal means – mostly through dreams and auditions. RISC in Ancient Hebrew Culture Neither ecstasy nor possession nor the techniques to achieve it were foreign to Israel. but also in waking visions. they are perspectival within the society. the practitioner can have a wide variety of cognitions. most often these judgments are due to the social position of the actors in the situation. But since RASC has been disputed in Israelite culture. and effectiveness. In other words. the sorcerer felt that the tricks improved the effectiveness of the cure because some patients were healed. the decisions may be entirely due to social processes. describes a complete scene in the heavenly throne room which he saw through prophetic vision. of which Nathan.

There are ample precedents for the role of these religiously altered states of consciousness in the neighboring cultures of the ancient Near East. 7:2) and the preposition “k” (“like” or “as”) makes clear that the experience is understood to be unusual and paranormal. we remember that we are explicitly being told about a RISC. For instance. We cannot even be sure that they all used the same techniques. Israelite culture was parochial and rural by comparison to the civilized conventions in the great river valleys. The only thing we can say for sure is that the Spirit of the Lord continues to possess the literary prophets and gives them legitimacy. appearance and image. It is not known whether or how these related experiences correspond to the literary prophetic books in the canon. but they also function as indicators of RASC in prophecy. The scene is a dream vision (Dan. I think it would be unwise merely to dismiss this evidence as a mere idiom. Daniel and Apocalyptic Writings Apocalypticism is a literary form in which the writer reveals (the Greek verb apokalypto means “I uncover”) heavenly secrets. if anything. In Daniel 7. our knowledge of the vocabulary of RISC is greatly aided by the literary prophets. Indeed. usually concerning the operation of the universe and final disposition of the righteous and sinners and the end of time. and we see an explosively subversive notion that God can deliberately mislead some of His prophets to effect His own designs. and literary creation went together for Israelite prophets. And these defined roles were by no means unique among Ancient Near Eastern cultures. in fact. since there are equally a wide variety of behaviors and consciousnesses describable by trance or ecstasy. The scene is actually God’s heavenly throne-room with two manlike – 224 – . we cannot be sure precisely whether trance and possession was characteristic of all the prophets and. at least for potential rulers. We see the same conventions three centuries later in the book of Daniel. It seems to start as prophecy is waning and continues the literary traditions which are found in prophecy. both terms. Ecstatic behavior was also sometimes criticized. Segal well.Alan F. are technical terms expressing human resemblance to God and God’s ability to appear as a human. So notions of role differentiation were evolving even in the earliest period of Israelite culture. Though we know that dancing and wild antics were sometimes reported of prophetic guild members. if so. suggests a variety of different techniques. The evidence. what kinds of trance and possession were found among them. Saul and David were both criticized for dancing amid the prophets. Indeed.13 Bible scholars sharply diverge on the role of RISC in the formation of literary prophecy (those prophets who left us books). the most obvious apocalyptic book in the Bible. ecstasy. because they are universally admired as great literary creations and it is hard to know how trance.

The big question is: “What kind of experience is it?” Well. is being translated and conditioned by the writings of Ezekiel. The best guess as to the identity of the figure shaped like a man is that he is simply the Glory of the Lord. God appearing in two different forms at once is very puzzling and it clearly innovates in a very daring way on the notion that God can appear as human or not. The prophet stays on earth in his bed but at the same time he is translated to heaven at the same time as he translates the Ezekiel passage into more personal experience. Behind this passage is originally a Canaanite mythologem describing El’s enthronement of his son Ba’al but no one knows how it has become a “kosher” vision. Daniel sees a human figure. probably as before. the text tells us that. it’s a dream vision. one an “Ancient of Days” and the second a “son of man” (bar enash. At the same time the prophet incorporates all kinds of new experience including the Canaanite mythological image into his scene. No exegete would have spelled out such a heretical implication. since it suggests that there may be more than one divinity.14 It is hard to imagine that anything other than a “prophetic dream” would have made this heretical scene possible! The Daniel passage is based upon the Ezekiel passage but no one would say that it is simple exegesis. In fact. Gabriel is described as “the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at first” (9:21). Somehow the experience of the later prophet. the Kavod YHWH. is described in a way reminiscent of Ezekiel’s description of God’s glory. If this is not a vision then it ought to be. the principal human manifestation of God – an angel if you will. The hypothesis that we have a transcript of the dream-vision – with the attendant caveat that all discursive – 225 – . The exact phrase in Daniel is “one like a son of man” (kbar ‘enash). At his second appearance. in such a traditional culture no one could make up such a heretical scene as two divinities who are one without relying on some divine sanction. So a reflection of real experience is quite obvious. quite unique in the biblical canon in fact. Son of man is not a title and can only mean the divine figure has a human form because the phrase “son of man” usually means simply a human being in most Semitic languages. one old (“The Ancient of Days”) and the other young (“the son of man”). Novelistic imagination could not have done the trick for the ancients. writing under the pseudonym of Daniel. Again in Daniel 10:16. in whose form God deigns to appear. in biblical Aramaic and in the post-biblical dialect barnasha). It cannot be merely exegesis of the Ezekiel passage because there is so much manifestly new material in it. All this would be conventional except for one thing: there are two different manifestations of God.” probably an angel. for some angels were envisioned in human form. signifying that the next figure in the vision was shaped like a man and reminding us that this is not Daniel’s usual consciousness. In Daniel 10:5 “a man clothed in linen. an angel “shaped in the likeness of a man” (kdemuth bnei adam).Text Translation/Soul Translation figures.

most especially. but there are very few precise contacts. We have no way of knowing how many changes may have entered the text before it is witnessed in the archeological record. The theophany in 1 Enoch 14:8ff is clearly related to the theophany in Ezekiel. The good are rewarded and the evil punished. However. which describes the “son of man. The ascent texts appear to flesh out various biblical texts into a vision of heavenly reward and punishment.) describes the way in which apocalyptic material relates to its biblical past. This kind of mélange of images is not the result of exegesis. But from early texts that we do have. allusions to figures rising from the sea come from earlier in the chapter. but actually the result of meditation on the whole chapter.” as well as the reference to the wheels of the merkabah (14:18). verse 13. Many of the traditions found in the Enoch cycle are excellent examples. Even more obvious is the relationship between the various ascent texts in Enoch and their biblical forebears. according to the text. one that is beholden to RASC. He notes. They seemingly combine the images at will and come up with a detailed new narrative which uses the fragmentary images of the Bible to forge a new story of consolation. indeed it is totally anathema to any educated Hebrew exegesis. 218). we are constantly given the details of Daniel 12 spelled out in many ways. They do not comment on the text and produce a commentary. we know that biblical text thought to contain the Word of God was transcribed very conservatively. a literary copyist glossed some of the biblical material. reorganized through RISC: “It is most unlikely that a careful interpreter of Daniel 7 would have linked the divine envoy with the home of the beasts and thereby deliberately linked the divine with the demonic in the way in which we find it in this chapter” (p. But the characteristics of the text remain the same. Thus. Segal language implies some interpretation – is the best explanation for the event. Now. Apart from the reference to the throne which is just as much influenced by Isaiah 6:1 (see 1 Enoch 14:18. the specific details of the vision in 4 Ezra are brought about. where the beasts are said to arise from the sea. A very interesting relationship between biblical texts and those found in Enoch is formed by the elements from chapter 1 of Ezekiel and Isaiah 6. “a lofty throne”) the frequent mention of fire and certain key words like “lightning” and “crystal. But the most obvious way to describe the relationships between the two sets of texts is that the biblical quotations were read – 226 – .Alan F.” who comes with the clouds of heaven. there are very few actual contacts. Of course. Christopher Rowland (1982: 217f. we must not completely deny the idea that somewhere along the line. not just by dream visions but induced by fasting and mourning. for instance in 4 Ezra 12:11. But the chapters from Ezekiel and Isaiah are clearly informing the Enoch texts. that the man (vir perfectus) who rises from the sea is an allusion to Daniel 7 and. We see the leaders rewarded with heavenly immortality as stars and the very worst of the sinners punished for having persecuted the righteous.

One stated purpose of Merkabah mysticism. the so-called Shiur Koma Literature (vy[wr qwmh. in mantra-like phrases which are evidently meant to promote contemplation and trance – like the songs. ascension. Then one perceives the chambers as if one saw the seven palaces with his own eyes.Text Translation/Soul Translation and understood by people who studied them carefully and then they became parts of the dreams and visions which they experienced. The reading is the process by which the seer assimilates details of the text into memory. or theurgy. and it is as though one entered one palace after another and saw what is there. as it is outlined in the hekhaloth texts. and mantralike prayers. 4). glossolalic incantations. – 227 – . In the Ninth Century. in the Hellenistic period. spells. these terms rightly became associated with the language of translation in two senses – in the translation of the texts and also in the sense of ascent. “Measure of the Stature. Benz 1952). These beliefs pervaded Jewish culture as well and enriched Jewish spirituality. And there are two mishnayoth which the tannaim taught regarding this topic. the magic use of shamanic techniques to stimulate these “out-of-body” experiences. took RASC very seriously. Strangely enough. Hai Gaon recounts that the journey to view this divine figure was undertaken by mystics who put their heads between their knees (the posture Elijah assumed when praying for rain in 1 Kings 18:42).16 while reciting repetitious psalms. As we have seen. which are recorded in abundance in the hekhaloth literature: When one seeks to behold the Merkabah and the palaces of the angels on high. This vocabulary in Greek was known to Paul and became a central aspect of Paul’s explanation of the Christian message (Kim 1984: 214). So I am saying that Jews of the First Centuries BCE and CE. (see Saake 1973.” meaning speculation on the measurements of the divine stature of God) gives the exact measurements of each organ and appendage of God’s angelic human manifestation. one must follow a certain procedure. like in all preceding and succeeding centuries. is to “see the King in His beauty” (Grünwald 1980: 156. Jewish Mysticism as Continuous with Prophecy and Apocalypticism In Jewish mysticism. called Hekhaloth Rabbati and Hekhaloth Zutreti. and charms of the hekhaloth (“Palaces”) literature. One must fast a number of days and place one’s head between one’s knees and whisper many hymns and songs whose texts are known from tradition. 193 n. which makes them available later as the bits of experience out of which the ascensions are formulated.15 They also certainly valued ecstasy or trance as a medium for revelation and developed techniques for signaling that ecstasy or trance was occurring. the same language also seemed to the ancients to suggest something very deep and mystical about the way in which humans resembled God and conversely how God could be figured in human form.

But note that even at this late date the language which conveys the RASC is the description of the ascent itself. historical prophecy was in the eyes of the central authorities either a phenomenon of the distant past or the eschatological future (see Aune 1983: 81–152). Did the Merkabah mystics actually ascend to the celestial realm and did they see something “out there. Himmelfarb. Wolfson’s (1994) recent and quite sensitive book. and. it was present in the Hellenistic world. By the Second Temple period.” or should these visions be read as psychological accounts of what may be considered – 228 – . who partakes of the divine name YHWH in a mystical way. texts called Hekhaloth Rabbati and Hekhaloth Zutreti have survived. we can now set out to answer another question that has been posed by scholars with regard to the visionary component of this literature. to visit God’s Vice-regent. a revelation which arrived through the media of dreams and visions to a nameless seer whom we know only as Daniel in approximately 165 BCE. they also contain instructions on how to perform the ritual that Hai Gaon relates. We know that the adept is on earth but that he travels through the heavenly palace – as it turns out. Ecstatic experience was present in biblical prophecy. Clearly. Segal Luckily. Nothing in Hebrew thought could be exegeted to find such a doctrine. Even if they now contain some further additions. But that is precisely what makes it so important to the understanding of the sect that produced Daniel or the early Christians. The question which most intrigues me is how to judge the issue of consciousness in the ancient texts of the Hellenistic world. The “palaces” appear to be alternative names for the heavenly spheres (Morray-Jones 2002. The easiest hypothesis is that it was present in the Jewish and Christian apocalypses as well. it was sought with consciously articulated techniques in Jewish mysticism thereafter as late as the Ninth Century. Elliot R. contra Scholem). these are RASC techniques and are recognized by the Gaon to be such.Alan F. It was a ferocious revelation of vengeance against the enemies of God and eternal happiness for the martyred saints. in the form of resurrection and translation to the heavenly realm where angelic transformation was effected. and Schäfer on the issue of the reality of the experience: Bearing the inherently symbolic nature of the visionary experience in mind. It takes issue with Halperin. This does not happen without some form of RASC. Such an important doctrine as life after death for the righteous (and especially the martyrs). was not merely discussed as a philosophical option. as we have just seen. The Gaon is aware of the mystical techniques for heavenly ascent and describes them as “out-of-body” experiences where the adept ascends to heaven while his body stays on earth. on the Merkabah mysticism flatly rejects the excessive reductionism or a literary fiction. details which we learn from the texts themselves. the human figure on the throne. They felt that the end of time was upon them and therefore it was expected that prophets would again speak.

I would certainly agree that they are normal occurences and can be significant. looking and hearing (p.Text Translation/Soul Translation in Freudian language a type of self-hypnosis? Or. He expresses this importance with Jungian terms. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know.” Second Corinthians therefore suggests – at the very least – that Paul has not entirely adopted the Platonic notion of the immortal soul – psyche. God knows. such as the fiery gyrations of the eyeballs. we know that someone in the First Century is having this experience. to suggest yet a third alternative. it is evident that the physical states are experienced in terms of tactile and kinesthetic gestures and functions appropriate to the body. and salutary to human life in cultures that value them. but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. ascending and descending. The vast majority of scholarship thinks that Paul is describing himself. he could not have allowed the – 229 – . Wolfson must be correct in thinking that the experience has some salutary component for the mystic or it would not have been recounted and retold. In fact. God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told. typified most strikingly in Hekhalot Rabbati in the story concerning the recall of R. whereas others assume an ascent of the soul or mind separated from the body as the result of a paranormal experience such as a trance-induced state. standing and sitting. as a descent into and discovery of the archetypal self? From a straightforward reading of the extant sources it would appear that some texts assume a bodily ascent. Had he done so. and I know that this man was caught up into Paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. Nehuniah ben Ha-Qanah from his ecstatic trance. as we shall see below. Paul here tells us that he knows someone who has had both revelations (apokalypseis) and visions (optasiai): the problem for Paul is not to decide whether this heavenly journey was sane but rather whether it took place inside or outside of the body: I must boast. 108–109). the apostle Paul gives us sure and certain evidence that First Century Jews were receiving revelation through RASC. entering and exiting. singing and uttering hymns. which man may not utter.17 What is more important is that Paul is flatly stumped by the mechanism. there is nothing to be gained by it. (2 Corinthinians 12:1–4) Whether Paul is describing his own or someone else’s experience. Jung suggests that these images are in various ways part of the fundamental psychological processes of human beings and aid in our ability to successfully individuate and mature. But even in the case of the latter explanation. meaningful. which I would not want to defend for long. would it perhaps be most accurate to describe the heavenly journey in Jungian terms. He will not risk a guess as to whether this ascent was “in the body” or “out of the body. a translation into the heavenly realm of the whole person with all the sensory faculties intact.

to his immense disappointment. Cardeña – 230 – . Brain Functioning. In one interesting place. there has been a great deal of research of late on the various neurological bases of religious and other anomalous experiences (Persinger 1987. is described as sitting on a pure marble slab traveling in heaven explicitly in a RASC while describing the sights to an assembled group of rabbis sitting on earth and listening in ordinary consciousness. it is very difficult to reach some scholarly disinterestedness about what is happening in these heavenly translations. it is important to realize that all these terms are being mediated by modern social norms as well as ancient ones.18 Thus. he can suggest how his experiences relate to various functions in the brain. Suffice it to say. James H. the issue of consciousness and the evaluation of various mental states is an iceberg underlying both the ancient texts and much of the scholarly discussion as well. When they wish to recall him they touch him in a such a way as to give him the slightest bit of cultic impurity.Alan F. his visions were denigrated by his Zen Roshi as undesirable snares to his further enlightenment. Because modern commentaries are suffused with the scholar’s own interpretation of the value or possibility of these experiences. So the trance and the trip to heaven are entirely parallel. As a neurologist and experimental physician.19 Implicit within the judgments of the modern scholars are a number of assumptions about what kinds of consciousness are appropriate or sane. But it is clear from the context that his body is on earth. Austin relates various zen states to perfectly normal or trainable aspects of brain activity. One can easily see that in other mystical traditions and societies these visions would have been one of the highest goals of consciousness (Austin 1998: 469–80). so the language of ascent is functioning to express the RASC. Nehuniah ben Hakkanah. Soul flight is the explanation of the aforementioned description of Rabbi Hai Gaon. miraculous as it appeared to him. No doubt this is a fictionalized account but exactly how much of it is augmented by literary imagination cannot be discussed here. especially when supplemented by the famous passage in Hekhaloth Rabbati where a rabbinic adept. Indeed. following most modern anthropologists and social scientists. on the other hand. It is reminiscent of taking testimony in a courtroom. and RISCs In his recent book on zen and brain functioning. Nehuniah is recalled for further questioning when he says something puzzling and then is sent back into his trance to finish his journey. he narrates a vision which came to him in Zen meditation and which deeply impressed him in clarity and lucidity. Segal possibility that a body could ascend to heaven and he would have had soul flight as a ready-made for the mechanism of the journey. Normality.

Obviously. Heavenly journey has a correlative in the functioning of the brain. in her 1984 book Heavenly Journeys. others report the state after disease or trauma or under the effects of various drugs. Exaltation in the mind produces the myth of exaltation. the intellectual scheme used for expressing this state will depend on the cultural assumptions of the subject. If we make allowances for the fact that a variety of different stimuli can produce similar effects in ways we are just beginning to understand. Newberg et al. being one with Brahma perceiving the state of no duality. then we have not so much a justification for the afterlife as an explanation for why the afterlife was located at the end of a heavenly journey. all the scientists report that religious feelings of leaving the body and being at one with the universe correlate quite fully with quieting the proprioceptive processing areas in the parietal lobes of our brain. This center controls our feelings of where we are in space. 2000. These experiences are quite different from the hallucinations that produce permanent mental illness. In the 1970s and 1980s Huston Smith discussed the prospect that notions of the afterlife and the soul’s immortality were developed out of these feelings which he experienced experimentally with LSD and psylocybin. The physical experience and the culture cooperate to produce various experiences which we find impossible to verify from the perspective of our cultural norms. liberated from the restrictions of time and space. although they are alike in that they all have an etiology in unusual functioning of our brain.Text Translation/Soul Translation et al. Nevertheless. The Heavenly Journey Mary Dean-Otting. others achieve the state in meditation. For instance. displays in convenient form many of the motifs which appear in the heavenly journeys. dislocate the center of consciousness. and distort time and space making them balloon outward in greatly expanded vistas?” (p. who asks: “Which was more likely to happen first: the spontaneously generated idea of an afterlife in which the disembodied soul. 47 note).20 He quotes Mary Bernard. It takes translation to produce a translation. they were real and important and quite normal for those who experienced them. These books demonstrate that perfectly normally functioning brains can spontaneously or by various techniques be stimulated to have anomalous and other religious experiences. derangement. and when that center is quiet subjects report that they no longer perceive their bodily location. Translation is the process of finding words for the experience in the brain in the language which the culture provided. being at one with the universe. or the accidental discovery of hallucinogenic plants that give a sense of euphoria. Depending on the cultural context in which they live. Dean-Otting – 231 – . this can be understood as being a heavenly journey. Some people seem to be able to do this spontaneously. 2001). experiences eternal bliss. and random acts of violence.

Alan F. Segal shows that the night vision motif is present in 1 Enoch 14. We all have them. pp. Dean-Otting herself does not shy from the conclusion that these are characteristics of mystical ascent in Hebrew thought. the Testament of Levi. correction and literary processes are always available after the fact to censor the dream. which is specifically mentioned at the beginning of the Poimandres. of course. The notion that God communicates through dreams is part of the epic tradition in Israelite thought. in much the same way that people ordinarily re-edit their conversion experiences over time to bring them closer to expected norms within their community (see Segal 1988: App. and the journey there would likely dream about the same details. like obtaining ritual purity. the physiology of dreams suggests that they are not designed to be remembered. in 4 Ezra there are three famous other techniques – fasting. 1. in some sense it doesn’t matter whether the culture chooses to mark the activity as directly related to the vision or merely as one of the preparations. dreams are also specially marked as having a divine origin (Miller 1994. One could easily add several other visions to the list. like its opposite over-eating. Anyone who spent his or her time in careful exegesis of the texts which describe the heavens. or to subject the dream experience to correction when it goes far from the expected details. Furthermore. Lastly. indeed. esp. can bring on vivid dreams and – in people with susceptible – 232 – . and drinking a fiery liquid. as the chemicals which the brain uses in the storing of memories are usually noticeably absent at dreamtime. And since we cannot privilege any sort of experience in our modern world. as a RISC. A person who seeks out a dream and treats it as a revelation is relying on an ordinary reflex of human experience but is choosing to treat the experience as a non-normal state of consciousness and a divine message. and 4 Ezra. that is all that we mean when we say that someone is receiving a dream vision (Proudfoot 1985). 3 Baruch. eating herbs of the field. being a special characteristic of the E source in the Pentateuch. We can stimulate that remembrance either directly by waking up during the dream and reciting or writing it down or by consciously or unconsciously making conditions which disturb sleep indirectly – such as by eating too much or little or by praying or otherwise predisposing the dream to be seen in a particular light. but without special training we only remember a very few. 3–123). 285–301). Now. the divine throneroom. the Apocalypse of Abraham. several times a night. oral reporting. As a physical stimulus. in short. the Book of Daniel is probably the source for the notion that revelation could be sought by incubating dreams. Furthermore. dreams are a special case in human experience. as well as direct them. both in content and emotional tone.21 Fasting is clearly a well-understood technique for achieving RASC. fasting. Usually in cultures that posit a non-normal state of consciousness for prophecy. We can train ourselves to remember dreams. Dreams are very much related to daily experience.

4:6–7 and the subsequent revelations which are called visions (Hazon 8:1. perhaps as in Genesis 28:12. it is precisely the kind of formulation one finds in the early parts of 1 Enoch: This is the book of the words or righteousness and the chastisement of the eternal watchers. and my soul fled from me. I heard the voice speaking . Let us see how the ascent theme works out in Hebrew culture and make some observations about this special kind of “shamanism. While we do not know whether the plants eaten had any psychotropic or psychedelic properties. sleep falls upon the seer. and fell face down upon the earth. In the Testament of Levi. In the Apocalypse of Abraham. Both are technical terms for RASC in prophetic literature. Daniel 7 announces itself as both a dream and a vision. as well as other psychoactive plants and mushrooms. marijuana. . 10:1).” As early as Daniel. (1 Enoch 14:2–3) This passage shows that Enoch too receives his ascent vision in his sleep and then communicates it afterward. and experiences a translation or ascent. the apocalypticist has interpreted the Hebrew word tardemah in Genesis 15. And my spirit was amazed. since poppies. . In 3 Enoch. Indeed. as purely a daytime trance. Also we can note that Daniel receives visions of his head on his bed.Text Translation/Soul Translation dispositions or training – trance and psychagogic states. in accordance with how the Holy and Great One had commanded in this vision. usually translated as deep sleep. the description of the special diet may imply a specific agent and is. which he writes down. a significant part of the fasting regime. ma’reh. And behold there was no breath of man. It may be even more. . Later. And while I was still face down on the ground. The apocalyptic narrator interprets this “deep sleep” as a waking vision: And it came to pass when I heard the voice pronouncing such words to me that I looked this way and that. Genesis 15 provides the structure of the story. the seer begins in a scene of great mourning for the destruction of the temple. And I became like a stone.22 His body is completely incapacitated but he sees the arrival of the angel and then uses the sacrificed – 233 – . grow wild everywhere around the Mediterranean. and jimson weed. (Apocalypse of Abraham 10). pace Himmelfarb. the theme of night visions becomes important. where “a deep sleep” falls upon Abraham. This seems like a definite technique of RASC together with the details for recording it. for there was no longer strength in me to stand upon the earth. I saw in my sleep what I now speak with my tongue of flesh [italics added] and the breath of the mouth which the Great One has given to man (so that) he (man) may speak with it – and (so that) he may have understanding with his heart as he (the Great One) has created and given it to man. Here. at the very least. the first vision is accomplished with a spirit of understanding. This compares with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:1.

Segal birds to ascend. It makes sense to think that terminology of ecstasy. as he might have seen any of a number of other things but.” or more colloquially.23 Differences between RISC and Exegesis as discoverable in Texts But. either described as sung upon ascent. but it may – under the proper circumstances.” He means this flight to signify a RASC. as it surely is in the later Jewish mysticism. repetitious hymn singing is the most important means of achieving the ascent in the merkabah texts. None of these techniques invariably leads to RASC. attitude. as the narrator states that his soul “fled. Hayyim Vital (1542–1620). and soul flight are used interchangeably here to indicate that the experience was a RASC. the point must be exceedingly clear by now: bidden or unbidden. he sees a scene from precisely the – 234 – . In the dream. which is just what his tradition has taught him to expect and just what the apocalypticists of the First Century expected to see. Himmelfarb accepts the burden of proof for comparison when she compares the visions of the First Century with an important Jewish mystic of the Seventeenth Century. or given with the direction to be sung in mystical texts. This may be loosely called “shamanism” (Davila 1994. or how it could have traveled from its original home. dream vision. which is printed in full – is to be recited by the adept 112 times exactly. Vital sees the throne of the Ancient of Days. and he further characterizes the physical trauma with a description of a seizure. Of course. 2001). not the physical stimulus. which was so strongly cited by Himmelfarb as an argument against its presence. In fact. in this context. ecstatic states of this type – RASCs – are common in biblical tradition. Vital is visited with a prophetic dream late one Sabbath eve. and context – especially when the state is fervently sought. Hymn singing should also be mentioned here as a technique for achieving RASC because hymns are frequently inserted into these narratives. But the merkabah texts explicitly start the ascent by saying that a certain psalm. spirit possession. the social interpretation of the experience is by far the most important indicator. after weeping over his personal problems. Indeed. although it is not at all clear what this experience has in common with Central Asian shamanism. soul flight). is neither a fair reading of the evidence nor a bar to the presence of RASC: indeed. it is a striking coincidence. as in the Arda Viraf Nameh.Alan F. The implicit theory is not so much “rapture” as explicitly RASC or “ecstasy” in its technical sense (extasia = ek + stasis = “standing outside. in fact. The lack of a specific description of a preparatory inducement. Weeping and keening and mourning are quite well understood techniques for inducing RISC in Jewish mysticism. This corresponds to the experience which Hai Gaon narrates in the medieval period. the lengthy keening or lamenting which precedes the vision in 4 Ezra may have already become the physical stimulus for inducing RASC.

Instead. they normally produce midrash or commentary. internalized descriptions of heaven and of God and His court. not by exegesis of previous texts alone. allegory. Of course.” an early text. figured as a contemporary record of a vision. they are vivid. He falls on his face until God raises him.Text Translation/Soul Translation throne tradition which we have been studying. The apocalyptic and pseudepigraphical literature is something entirely different.” Himmelfarb assumes that the personal detail serves as an indicator that real experience is present. typology. We simply do not know whether there are any personal elements in 1 Enoch or 4 Ezra because we have no idea who wrote them and only our own deductions as to why they were written. the passage of time. many scholars have independently pointed out a distinctly personal voice in the narration of 4 Ezra which appears to learn developmentally (see for example Stone 1990: 30–33. Historical circumstances themselves. we have the description of the divine throneroom. what sets this vision off as a real experience and shows that the older texts are not is precisely what happens next. But. Himmelfarb suggests there are no such personal experiences in the apocalypses. what she suggests is possible but it is not the only or even the most logical explanation for a difference between two reports in the same tradition separated by 1500 years. just as is the material in Vital’s dream. According to Himmelfarb. Three short scenes from the famous “Parables of Enoch. We may doubt that the narrative is a coterminous transcription of the event but the same is obviously true in the Seventeenth-Century case. In 1 Enoch 46. They are not exegeses in any of the well-known canons of the first century – midrash. Analysis of text seems to demonstrate that certain kinds of narration are produced by RISC. What is conventional in the first few centuries seems to me to be something entirely different. which is first described in Daniel 7: – 235 – . Comparison is a knife that cuts both ways here. and indeed the rise of specific modern concepts of personality intervene as well. He suffers the conventional emotional responses of fright and trembling. What she appears to mean in my estimation is that we have at this moment no way of knowing what kind of personal experience is narrated in them. But even more important is to realize that “solution to personal problems” is a quite modern category that may play no role in the definition of RASC/RISC in the ancient world. Since Vital’s dream has these “intensely personal aspects. 119–125). pesher. illustrate the point. When people deal with texts exegetically in the first few centuries. to say nothing of the specific history and situation of Seventeenth-Century Safed. etc. The issue in the ancient world was both personal and social – it was the problem of how God was going to make his justice known when so many evil enemies of God’s people seemed to be in charge. Vital receives reassurance that his personal troubles are over and that he has been elected for divine leadership in place of his rival. Josef Karo. just as the angel raises Enoch.

(1 Enoch 46:3) This passage (and the next too) is manifestly a paraphrase of Daniel 7:13. seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up. or even a daydream. He also showed me all the secrets of the extreme ends of heaven and all the reservoirs of the stars and the luminaries – 236 – . which is also a feature of Christian documents. Sheol will return all the deposits which she had received and hell will give back all that which it owes. a psychagogic state. But it is important to note that the passage is not just a commentary on it. there is no way to tell whether they appear here because they were personally experienced by the adept. Would it be too much to suggest that the exegete’s own experience in visions or dreams has mediated the previous text and filled in some details? Given the inherent conservatism of exegetical arts. And I saw the sons of the holy angels walking upon the flame of fire. It is not the same as saying the text reflects a RASC. shortly after this scene there is a quite interesting expansion on Daniel 12: In those days. What matters is that the imaginative act is interpreted religiously. The proleptic presence of the eschaton. and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness. one of the archangels. In the last example. But it is not an exegesis of Daniel 7. Segal This is the Son of Man. I think it is the most obvious explanation. we have yet a greater change from the passage in Daniel 7. And the angel Michael. the light of which fire was shining like hyacinth. Now we have hidden storerooms and a “Lord of Spirits. And he shall choose the righteous and the holy ones from among (the risen dead). And he will open all the hidden storerooms. It makes no difference whether the intervening experience is a waking vision. for the Lord of the Spirits has chosen him. their garments were white – and their overcoats – and the light of their faces was like snow. This is the very famous passage in which Enoch ascends to the throne of the Son of Man and is transformed into him: (Thus) it happened after this that my spirit passed out of sight and ascended into the heavens. and he is destined to be victorious before the Lord of the Spirits in eternal uprightness. for the day when they shall be selected and saved has arrived. Enoch uses not only different terms but also new conceptions to describe the scene. (1 Enoch 51:1–3) In this case. Also I saw two rivers of fire. and with whom righteousness dwells. experienced proleptically. can be easily explained as being a product of a prophetic RASC in which the anticipated millennium is experienced as already happening in the vision. to whom belongs righteousness.” Since these are all conventional items from other texts. a dream. we are not merely given a paraphrase of Daniel but a fairly large expansion including an experience of salvation.Alan F. But. led me out into all the secrets of mercy. Then I fell upon my face before the Lord of the Spirits.

A whole new character is introduced. especially the personage of Enoch. Raphael. I fell on my face. Thus. Enoch. first-person narration. And it is impossible to derive without adding a new character into the scene. The one universal – 237 – . and numerous (other) holy angels that are in heaven above. and most obviously for the adept experiencing RASC. With them is the Antecedent of Time: His head is white and pure like wool and his garment is indescribable. they are phrased as the personal problems of the narrator. . it is presented as a RASC. We have seen that this is the very prophecy predicted by Daniel 12. To me. Michael. He narrates the confessional experience of being transformed into an angel.Text Translation/Soul Translation – from where they came out (to shine) before the faces of the holy ones. But it is at least a personal. the evidence would be ambiguous as there are no single indicators of RASC. Phanuel. Gabriel. there is no question but that the text is reproducing the experience of someone who is hiding behind the conceit of Enoch. Raphael. Instead they appear to be issues of the nature of the saved group and their hopes for the redress over the seeming lack of justice in the world. showing us that personal experience is present. (1 Enoch 71:1– 5. . the supposed author. was built in the heaven of heavens . And I saw countless angels – a hundred thousand times a hundred thousand. and I Enoch. I see no reason to disbelieve that RASC is part of the religious tradition. This does not prove that the expansion was taken during RASC. He carried off my spirit. rather it is the result of a new prophetic insight about the events of the eschaton. Phanuel. And. He narrates the scene and discusses his personal feelings in ways which are totally new and foreign to the original Daniel passage. But what could prove it? Even if we had the adept here for an EEG. who is serving as the mouthpiece for the innovation. which Himmelfarb said was absent in this literature. But there is an even more interesting part of the expansion. 8–11) Here is the same kind of expansion of Daniel which we have just noticed in the earlier passages in the Parables. not of any historical character. Gabriel. as they dominate all religious writing. go in and out of that house – Michael. we have a clear example of a future prophecy experienced confessionally as a RASC with the many novelties in the translation. so he is yet another pseudonymous character. my whole body mollified and my spirit transformed. ten million times ten million – encircling that house. of course. The purpose of the text is theodicy because the expected end will right the wrongs of the present situation. He now goes to the heavenly throneroom which is described in Daniel 7:13 and testifies that the prophecy of Daniel 12 is starting to happen. No place in scripture is this made clear. and numerous (other) holy angels that are countless. albeit an antideluvian hero. he is the same Enoch who is mentioned in Genesis 5. Of course. And what he narrates is exceptionally important.24 The conventions of the First Century are very different from those of the Seventeenth. Although issues of authority dominate earlier texts as well.

As Himmelfarb has helped illustrate for us. whether ecstatic or not. This is the religious concomitant to Harold Bloom’s notion of the anxiety of influence. even when they manifestly are. Christos.” Revealing the contents of heaven. with unveiled face. cristo~). The large difference between Paul and the Merkabah mystics is that Paul uniquely identifies the angelic figure with the messiah (Christ. In those documents. which makes it subversive to received authority. Segal in all these texts seems to me to be that every one eventually addresses the issues of theodicy by turning his or her attention to the eschaton or “millennium. Another imagination is filtering it and changing it in significant ways. and that development. one characteristic of claiming a special revelation. People try to demonstrate that they are not innovating. “in Christ” as Christ functions as the human representative of God. beholding the glory of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:49. is not easily explainable by exegesis alone. The experiences of Enoch in 1 Enoch and the mystical ascenders in the merkabah documents are based on the writings of Daniel and Ezekiel especially. They present a further development of the tradition. All the texts function in other ways too. but on a great many theophany texts as well. with the righteousness of the martyrs rewarded and the sinfulness of the persecutors punished. but they never seem to neglect this issue. except in scriptural religious terms the anxiety seems to be mostly on the other side – not anxiety in admitting influence but anxiety in admitting novelty. in turn. This is probably the confessional experience of becoming a star. just as in Jewish mysticism. the rules for changing it are not exegetical rules. for the expansions go wildly beyond exegesis. is precisely that it does invoke other. Obviously. often by adopting the persona of ancient heroes. more charismatic sources of religious authority than the literary and exegetical skills which trained religious exegetes claim (Lewis 1971). whether it be Josef Karo or the Second Temple administration or stimulated by the shock of the Roman victory over the Jews and their destruction of the Herodian Temple. It probably also explains Paul’s use of the language.25 Paul reveals much about personal mystical experiences in the First Century in his own confessional accounts. may conflict in any religious text. Instead they claim that God has delivered a new insight about His approaching plan of vengeance for the wicked.Alan F. also see Colossians 3:9): And we all. is an answer to the question of why the righteous cult members are persecuted. are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another. which we saw earlier. 2 Corinthians 3:18–4:6. historical circumstances and individual consciousness. a major theme is the ascent of the adept where he is transformed into the gigantic angelic figure who embodies the name of God. as narrated in Daniel 12:2. for this comes from the Lord who is – 238 – . Often Paul talks about transforming the believers into the image of God’s son in various ways (Romans 8:29.

Text Translation/Soul Translation the Spirit . it is a very potent religious and mystical testimony. trying to show them why they must hold to their faith in spite of disconfirmation. by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. becoming like him in his death. they will all be transformed into angels as they are translated to a better existence. to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. He uses the Greek words for transformation. knows that God will continue to justify the righteous because he has already personally felt the beginning of the longprophesied transformation of the righteous leaders (hamaskilim of Daniel 12. This confessional experience is a kind of breakthrough of the end-time experience into ordinary life. though he also uses metamorphosize and metaschematize to describe the event. that you may prove what is the will of God. principally symmmorphosis. and may share his sufferings. the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism and enduring sufferings are what bond the believer to Christ. a word which connotes a metamorphosis into the same person. (Philippians 3: 10-11) But our commonwealth is in heaven. . (Romans 12:2) Paul says that all believers are being changed into the likeness of the Glory of the Lord. He foretells that the – 239 – . . through His sufferings and death. who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body. The seer. Paul. what is good and acceptable and perfect. For it is the God who said. (2 Corinthians 3: 18–4:6) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection. soon to arrive. But. This is to be contrasted in Romans 12:2 with syschematize. with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! (Galatians 4: 19) Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. and from it we await a Savior. whether known to us or not. “Let light shine out of darkness. acts as a prophet consoling the embittered and small minority. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. (Philippians 3:20–21) My little children. He sees the process as having begun with the resurrection of Christ and as ending with the eschaton. . to conform or fit in. like the other mystics. Conclusion This is not a mere novelistic consolation. that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. which can console but can also propel cult members to action. who is the likeness of God . at the eschaton. . those who are wise) to angelic substance.” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

not evident structure of the cosmos. I am only saying that they may have been mistaken in their physics from our point – 240 – . The stages are not strictly chronological and they overlap a great deal. In the second stage. in which God appears in a human form. They offer religious consolation for a world in which the righteous do not seem to win and they promise far more than the thrill of ascent. I have taken up an inordinate amount of time describing mystical translation. The first stage is represented by key prophetic texts like Daniel and Ezekiel. Translation from one conceptual universe to another is a much more metaphoric use of the term than the simple act of translating the word young woman in Hebrew to virgin in Greek and is even more fraught with misprisions. Now obviously this was intended to be a discussion on translation. Segal righteous were supposed eschatologically to be promised unification and transformation into immortal creatures. The ascents all say that they reveal the secret. there are even many apocalypses in the later mystical literature. after outlining some methodological issues in word translation. It also illustrates the way in which textual study is translated into confessional mystical experience in a Scriptural community. I am suggesting that there are many ways of translating. These texts are surely more than imaginative renderings to remedy unsatisfactory daily life. But it is clear that this history gives us a translation process in two respects. First it records the heavenly translation of the saints to receive their transformative reward in heaven. For us to understand these seemingly impossible experiences we need to translate them from their language of vision. Paul shows us that apocalypse and mysticism go hand in hand. especially one which feels itself poised before the eschaton. secrets which include the proleptic transformation of believers into the divine or angelic body sitting on the throne. But calling attention to the relationship between the scholarly interpretive act and the simpler act of finding a good equivalent word in another language does underline that we need to be responsible for understanding the nature of the ancients’ experience. but to the language of the neurological basis of our experiences and a historically developing set of cultural explanations about what these refractory experiences mean. not to the language of fiction and hallucination. he is the only named Jewish mystic to give us his confessional and personal experience in about 1500 years. one important way being by confessionally reexperiencing the previous prophetic texts.Alan F. famous heroes from the biblical past are pictured as uncovering in revelation (apocalypsis) more secrets about these prophetic writings. They are not merely literary appraisals but were meant to be appropriated on a religious level. Some of the texts imply that they are imparting great secrets. even if we believe what they tell us is literally impossible. In the later texts we get the confessional experience of the adepts as they develop specific ways to provoke and stimulate these experiences. There are three stages in this little history of RASC in apocalypticism. the apocalyptic texts.

that is just how they experienced their RISCs. But in observation of the centuries after Paul it becomes clear that translation to heaven itself serves as the basic language to describe and indicator of the RASC. but it seems clear that they were not lying about the nature of their experiences. the soul itself. It is proper to admit that the adepts of the apocalyptic and mystical literature. it is rather that we turn them from religious texts to novels to fit our world. I have also spent some time castigating scholars whose interpretation. are not like us. So Paul and the prophets become theologians and social reformers to fit our world. in the nature of the experience being described in the words from a previous time. as the two phenomena are highly correlated and the mystics begin to agree on the vehicle of the travel. we ought – 241 – . all translation is a kind of hermeneutics. the Bible is not self-evidently speaking to us. tropes of a literary genre. our biblical demogogues aside. The Bible does not have to be talking about us and our lives. We do it by reading them and commenting on them – different hermeneutics for different people and different times. Yet. even when they believe them to be feigning or fictionalizing these experiences. They did it by reexperiencing the prophecies in a RASC. it also illustrates what lies behind the process of biblical language translation.Text Translation/Soul Translation of view. heavenly translators who expected to be translated and transformed into angelic creatures in order better to do God’s work in the coming apocalypse. they freely reinterpret the terms as signifying novelistic license. those people who formulated these texts. It is not that these religious texts are actually novels. The past is a foreign land and. or even symptoms of insanity. not translation per se seems to me to be faulty. All the modern scholars would translate dream and vision by their proper names. the reconceptualizing of prior ideas to renew them for new times. psychic astronauts. Aware of these massive differences between us and them. The process of translation from language to language actually turns out to be a less intense way of doing what the mystics were doing – moving the meaning of texts from one cultural context to another. This is a much more complicated case than the Virgin Birth but it is similar methodologically in that relatively innocuous changes in wording – like the difference between vision and hallucination – signal enormous changes in our understanding of the nature of consciousness. Having those expectations. Some were mystical voyagers. Not only does translation to heaven serve as a metaphor for ecstasy. in their commentaries. they would have placed their reductionistic interpretations right into the translation itself. In a Scriptural tradition like the Bible. it is easy to miss the real experience of religiously altered states of consciousness in the texts or to denigrate them because we cannot duplicate the experience. And if they were still following the conventions of the translation in the LXX or the Targums. In some sense. Himmelfarb has gotten the problem exactly wrong. In this case.

Notes 1. 7. And he became hungry and desired something to eat. But in a post-modern world. I would prefer – 242 – . but while they were preparing it. Translation is inherently a dangerous process and official Islam avoids the question by eschewing translation entirely. All translations of the Qur’an are called merely commentaries. It is. which subsequently was published as well. this distinction is somewhat arbitrary because RASC trances and altered states are complex and socially determined states. 3. Of course. A proof-text is a Bible citation used to demonstrate the truth of a doctrine and is used especially when scholars want to point out that some new doctrine is opportunistically justified by rereading or reinterpreting a biblical text which originally had nothing to do with it. Instead it outlines a theory of Jewish mysticism which does not include and in fact is hostile to unio mystica. Segal to be able to do our relatively modest jobs of translating and commenting on their work with a bit more respect for the high purpose that they set for themselves. even if we cannot have their experiences and do not wish to emulate them. all RASC is in a sense RISC because all states of consciousness are coded and interpreted by the culture. 4. See Kamesar (1990). I would be hard-pressed to discover any disinterested notions of truth and falsity in a tradition exegesis. thesis. since most of the canon is pseudonymous as well. helpful to distinguish between the two in the case in the period we are discussing because we feel that dreams are ordinary experience but can be interpreted as religious (therefore RISC) while we normally feel that visions are altered states of consciousness and therefore RASC. In Scholem 1956. 2. Notice that Peter falls into a trance in Acts 10:10. I can understand that scholars of religion once thought that some exegeses were “true” and others “false” in that they conformed to the simplest meanings of the text. indeed.Alan F. 5. 6. however. There may not be any difference between the two phenomena. the first chapter deals with the phenomenon of mysticism in Judaism but it does not address the issues that are central to this discussion. Phil. 8. This now appears to be an overstated conclusion. he fell into a trance (ektasis). From the point of view of brain functioning they may all be simply religiously interpreted states of consciousness. The material is from his Oxford D. we should probably suspect a great deal of the Bible. Indeed.

16. Culianu 1983. See Kilborne. Of course they were but they may not have been ritual events. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD. Though everyone thinks that much of it was fictionalized. On the other hand. see Segal 1987. see Kilborne and esp. Even assuming that someone called Don Juan actually existed. The term often used to describe merkabah mystics. and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left. For a discussion of the shamanic techniques in healing. the summary discussion in Collins 1977. of course. seems to me best understood as referring to this position. that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing. go forth and do so. I am not saying that Castaneda’s work is totally worthless. 17. for dreams. it certainly remains useful to describe the counter-cultural religiosity of the 1960’s and 1970’s. it is important to note that Castaneda steadfastly maintained that it was all true.’ And the LORD said to him. especially 16:6–12. and the LORD said. Miller 1994. and another said another. is taken to absurd lengths. “the descenders into the chariot” (yordei merkabah ywrdy mrkbh).’ And he said. ‘By what means?’ And he said. we cannot actually tell whether Paul is suggesting that the actual adept cannot tell about the mechanism or whether he is just unsure of – 243 – 9. 13. For a demonstration of these issues with regard to magic. ‘I will go forth. Robert Wilson (1980) brings up the comparative material but is skeptical of its direct application to Israelite prophecy. 15. it is clear that it could not be used to represent the experiences with a typical Yacqui. And. Himmelfarb is also making an interesting and justifiable claim against other scholars who claim that merely reading the texts was a ritual event in that the texts were performative utterances which brought about ascent in the mind. ‘You are to entice him. Instead he tries to develop criteria showing where the evidence may be selectively and carefully appropriated to Israelite cases. ‘I will entice him. and also Hanson where he shows that such Hellenistic conventions surely influenced Luke’s descriptions in Acts. .Text Translation/Soul Translation to merely to point out which exegeses had societal approval and which lacked it. see esp. 11. To be conservative. and you shall succeed. ‘Who will entice Ahab. the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets. 14. Himmelfarb’s good point.’ Now therefore behold. 12. (Pace Grünwald). as I will show. And Micaiah said. “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne. the LORD has spoken evil concerning you” (1 Kings 22:19–23). saying. See for example. and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. see also Lewis 1986. 10.

young manifestation in the vision and is hence now part of God. Michael Ripinsky-Naxon (1993) adopts a very broad phenomenology as a strategy to define Shamanism. 20. then the hekhalot material is clearly shamanism too. None of the seers themselves are directed to do this before the vision starts. 1991. I could show that this is exactly the experience behind the early Christian Church’s experience of being in Christ. Tart. 18. however. 24. I cite the “cult” classic: Julian Jaynes (1977) not to agree with his major points but only to suggest various possibilities in the development of consciousness and especially in the imposition of RASC within it. 19. Suffice it to say that these seemingly parenthetical remarks are quite an impressive and unusual pieces of evidence for a particular theoretical moment in Late Antiquity ascent texts. he relates a heavenly journey. Indeed. In its place is the virtually unique benefit of the “Sar Torah. In some real sense we can say that the New Testament was written to prove that the man Jesus has been translated to heaven to become the second. Dowling. The last report. See the reprints of these articles in Smith 2001. and anesthesia. because it is not suggested as a waking technique for achieving RASC.Alan F.” stupor. but that is a story for another day. 22. It is also reminiscent of the famous Zoroastrian ascension text. 1996. so it should probably be seen as a specific characteristic of that particular vision. 25. Noerretranders.” the angel who visits the mystic and teaches him magically to remember vast amounts of Talmud. Rather. Segal the report he is narrating. 1996. Dennett. I would suggest that Paul is saying that he has experienced the ascent and he does not know whether he journeyed in the body or not. which Paul describes in some detail. When he recovers. It is from the same root as that of the word used for trance is Daniel 10. the Arda Viraf Nameh where the hero takes a potion such as Haoma which results in a long seizure. should probably be excluded as an actual technique. 1998. Searle et al. 23. 21. It would be interesting speculate about any relationship between this report and Zoroastrian Haoma rituals. modern Hebrew uses the word to express a drug “high. If I had to wager. 1998 [1991]. 1969. This certainly fits the apocalyptic and mystical evidence in early Christianity and Judaism where some ascents seem to be soul flights whereas others seem to be bodily journeys. See more recent studies of consciousness for more plausible explanations: Chalmers. If so. With more time. – 244 – . But it is still important to note that the issue of healing is almost entirely missing in the Jewish material. 1997. it occurs within the vision as a magic potion for the purposes of remembering scripture.

Psychanodia I. – 245 – . “Dreams and Visions in the Graeco-Roman World and Early Christianity. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Daniel C. Leiden: Brill. AOS 62. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. New York: McGraw-Hill. William. 2001. 1980. Consciousness Explained. AGAJV. 1983. Halperin. Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness. James H. —— Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature. Leiden: Brill. 1977. David.” Society of Biblical Literature 1994 Seminar Papers. Boston: Little Brown. Austin. Etzel. Wiesbaden: Steiner. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence. New Haven:Yale University Press. 1982. John E. 1989. 1984. 1998.C. 1994. with Proctor. Martha. Apocalyptic and Merkabah Mysticism. —— Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness. Culianu. Chalmers. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. and Castelli. David J. 767– 789. Ernst. 1980. Harvard Semitic Monographs 16. Dowling. D. 1988. Jim. 1989. L. The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature. Mary. 2000. MT: Scholars Press. Collins. Atlantic GA: Scholars Press. The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel. Himmelfarb. 1996. John J. Adventures in Immortality. Lynn. 1991. Kabbalah: New Perspectives. 1998. 1966. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Leteratur. Standley. New York: Verlag Peter Lang. New York: Basic. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. John S. pp. Gallup. Gallup. “The Hekhalot Literature and Shamanism. The People’s Religion: American Faith in the 90s. James R. New York: Norton. 1983. Dennett. Grünwald. Leiden: Brill. 1395–1427. New York: Oxford University Press. Iaon P. David J. Benz.Text Translation/Soul Translation References Aune. Dean-Otting. Moshe. Idel. George Jr. Washington. —— The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision. Heavenly Journeys: A Study of the Motif in Hellenistic Jewish Literature. New York: Macmillan. Missoula.” ANRW II 23:2. George Jr. Hanson. Cardeña. Steven Jay and Krippner. pp. New Haven: American Oriental Society.: American Psychological Association. Paulus als Visionär. 1993. 1952. Creating Mind. Davila.

Rowland. In Hekhalot Mysticism: a Source-Critical and Tradition-Historical Inquiry. Ripinsky-Naxon. Trans. 2002. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). “Towards an Understanding of the Origins of Apocalyptic. 1987. Patricia Cox. —— Geniza-Fragmente Zur Hekhalot-Literatur. Eugene and Rause. Benjamin. Religious Experience. Segal Jaynes. 1983. Saake. 1985. Michael. 14–15. Schäfer. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel. Baltimore: Penguin. Westport CN: Praeger. New York: Crossroads. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Morray-Jones. Tor. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Berkeley: University of California Press. Lewis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.” Structural Anthropology. 1977. Christopher. 1990. pp. Lévi Strauss. 1991). Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. “A Transparent Illusion: The Dangerous Vision of Water”. Lewin Hagigah. 1984. 1984. Proudfoot. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 153–160. Julian. J. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). NovT 15:2. 1932. “The Virgin of Isaiah 7:14: The Philological Argument from the Second to the Fifth Century. Adam. Kilborne. 1982. 1998 (orig. Synopse Zur Hekhalot-Literatur. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1971. Kim. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. trans. “Paulus als Ekstatiker: pneumatologische Beobachtung zu 2 Cor. Sydenham. Kamesar. Christopher. “Dreams. Helmut. Wayne. pp. – 246 – . New York: Viking. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. 51–75. Andrew.Alan F. as Maerk verden. 1993. 1984. Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture. pp. Otsar Ha-Geonim ed. Jerusalem. —— Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma. Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism. Leiden: Brill. Newberg. Peter. Claude. Teshuroth. Persinger. pub. New York: Ballantine.” Encyclopedia of Religion. Monique Layton. 1973. xii 1–10. Vince. Noerretranders. —— Der verborgene und offenbare Gott: Hauptthemen der frühen jüdischen Mystik. Gyldendalske Bokhandel. 1991.” Journal of Theological Studies ns 41. 1986.” In The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Early Judaism and Christianity. 2001. 1981. The Nature of Shamanism: Substance and Function of a Religious Metaphor. D’Aquili. Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs. Rowland. Ioan M. “The Sorcerer and His Magic. Miller. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. Albany: SUNY Press. Michael A.

– 247 – . New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America. New Haven: Yale University Press. Smith. Wolfsen. Elliot R. Wilson.). —— “Paul’s Conversion. Scholem. Michael Edward. Segal. 1980. “The Traditions about Merkabah Mysticism in the Tannaitic Period”. 1956. Ephraim E. Fourth Ezra. 2001. 1994. Searle. 1997. (ed. Huston. Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals. 1990. New York: Schocken. In Hebrew in the Hebrew section of Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G.” In Other Judaisms of Late Antiquity. Stone. “Hellenistic Magic: Some Questions of Definition. Atlanta GA: Scholars Press. 1967. 1988. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Minneapolis: Fortress. Philadelphia: Fortress. Brown Judaic Series 127.Text Translation/Soul Translation Scholem. The Mystery of Consciousness. Alan F. Robert. John R. Urbach. and Talmudic Tradition. Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. New York: Penguin Putnam. Psychological Studys. 1969. —— Jewish Gnosticism. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings. Gershom Gerhard. New York: Wiley. Jerusalem: Magnes. Charles T. Merkabah Mysticism. Dennett. Tart. Exchanges with David Chalmers and Daniel C. Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism. 1960. 1987. New York: New York Review Press.” In Paul the Convert.


The idea of art. The first visually pleasing or intriguing objects brought back from Africa. the classical ideal. all of whom were preoccupied with the relations among art. the categories in which these objects were framed. By the mid-nineteenth century. and the commentaries that elaborated the frames.1 the Americas and the Pacific in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not yet “art” but curios without ascertainable meaning.–10 – Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Wyatt MacGaffey As Europe extended its reach around the world from the fifteenth century onward. Burke. commentary on exotic objects. In Europe. Art was expected to uphold public morality by depicting edifying moments from history and mythology. beginning in the mid-seventeenth century with the founding of the Royal Academy in Paris in 1648 and the professionalization of fine art (as opposed to the work of artisans) under the control of the state. Civilization and the Idea of Art Much of the talk about what art is and what it means uses the idea of art to campaign for particular definitions of what it is to be civilized. Lessing and Kant. and commentaries from Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Their discussions were prompted in part by increasing popular interest in reports from faraway places. morality and right thinking. over the same period. and closely related to it. The travelers’ reports that accompanied them.2 Three centuries later. the reflexive turn in anthropology has led to controversial and still unsettled new perspectives on the means by which objects exhibited in the West were collected. the idea of art acquired its modern sense. social sciences developed from their original roots in theology and philosophy. and how they should be classified and viewed. like that – 249 – . was developed during the eighteenth century by such figures as Vico. In parallel with this evolution. mark the beginnings of anthropology.” From the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. housed in the new ethnographic museums. The “theory” of this art. was being provided mainly by the new discipline of anthropology. it recorded its relations with exotic regions in the form of collections of “curiosities. changed to match changes in international relations.

Wyatt MacGaffey of the rational.” and Picasso famously expressed his lack of interest in the meaning to Africans of their art by saying that the objects themselves told him all he needed to know. or invented. D.3 The court arts of the Near and Far East and Peru that attracted attention by their aesthetic qualities were regarded as ornament rather than art because although their makers were credited with imagination they were assumed to be incapable of the kind of transcendent ideas that informed real art and endowed it with meaning. acquired plausibility. as Frances Connelly has shown. more accurately.C. the possibility that primitive arts were really art. motivated solely by impulse and emotion. not as art (not even primitive art) but as demonstrations of the absence of civilization among those who produced them. There was nothing there to translate. Instead of art.4 Objects from Africa and Oceania still fell into the category of the grotesque. folk art. illustrations for an evolutionary narrative. not on Polynesian art. has always been most clearly defined by what it is not or. The type of the grotesque was the “fetish. they produced forms that were either grotesque (lacking discipline) or at best ornamental (lacking narrative). and therefore of the primitive. but it was the form rather than the “meaning” of the objects that intrigued them. or art of a sort. by whatever lack in other people explains the assumed absence of civilization among them.” especially as it was reported from Africa and Oceania. for example. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. even Gauguin’s “Tahitian” paintings were often based on Egyptian. were supposed incapable of abstraction and lacked any sense of history..5 Objects brought back from colonial empires were housed in the new ethnographic museums. to which most of the same ambiguities attach as to primitive art. it was the product of merely random impulses and violated the elementary Cartesian distinction between animate and inanimate beings (Pietz 1985). The last quarter of the nineteenth century also discovered. “fetishism” was the antithesis of civilization. Primitives. Modigliani and other artists in Paris a century ago. makes use of African masks as “grotesques. The classical norm in art. Japanese or Javanese compositions. “cast the primitive as the dark image of itself” (Connelly 1995: 9). Ornament became more respectable. Much has been made of the interest shown in African objects by Picasso.6 Meaning was assigned to African and Oceanian works lodged in ethnographic collections in terms of the evolutionary assumptions they were called upon to illustrate. if by translation we mean to express in our own terms the significance of the objects to those who produced and used them. for Enlightenment thinkers from De Brosses to Hegel. where the African collection appeared in pseudochronological order after the neolithic exhibit. The nineteenth-century romantic reaction against the academy and the classical ideal brought about a reevaluation of emotion as against reason. in practice. it – 250 – . A notorious example was provided until recently by the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington.

and energized by the desire to control (commercial) value. lies in the way it is contrasted with the others. now renamed “Asian. identified three critical positions: the romantic. as at the Art Institute of Chicago. to “academic art. however. that prevailed until recently and have yet to succumb entirely to scholarly challenges. so far. theirs” and “higher vs. it is the privilege of the collector to discover it (Steiner 1994: 9. except that it should be as old as possible. American folk art was often a popular hand-me-down from academic art. where. Primitive Art (sometimes now called “tribal” or “ethnic”) is the Folk Art of Others who lack Fine Art. The date of the work does not matter. The history of these evaluations remains fossilized in the categories we find in dealers’ catalogs and the art departments of museums. are matters of ongoing debate. in the twentieth century. When acrylic paintings by Australian Aborigines appeared on the New York art market in 1989. are superior to their folk in that their creativity represents the cultural heritage of a nation rather than the unthinking representational habits of the tribe (Ames 1977).” but the idea of them remained negative.” They were produced. and of “Art” as a whole. 44). finding himself unexpectedly in an ethnographic role.” in recognition of the derogatory tenor of the original term. The constitutive variables of the set are “ours vs. a “dark image. in response to collective tradition rather than individual genius. These turns of thought and practice have generated the subdivisions of the general category. Our folk. As Fred Myers observes. the significance of each category. and they did not incorporate narratives of historical and moral importance. Africa and Oceania are lumped together only because. The Fine Art of Others is limited. Myers. often attended by the acrimony appropriate to these and other essentially political matters. created in industrial media rather than with – 251 – . supposedly. “the point of the struggle is almost entirely a question of how to represent others” (Myers 1995: 57). The collectors and connoisseurs who constitute the primitive-art market codify tribal styles in order to control “authenticity” and therefore market value.7 Folk and primitive objects could suddenly be art. often considered morally preferable. somehow. and where. much of it not even American in inspiration (Janzen and Janzen 1991). before the invasion of corrupting foreign or modern influences. to Oriental Art. the maker is unaware that his product is art. rather than in the list of objects that may or may not be included. Art. in both instances. dealers and their allies the critics debated the status to be accorded to them. Modern studies have shown the error of these assumptions.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art consisted of objects identified as art by members of the upper class. Whether these contrasts should be drawn. lower”. they consider objects made by known and still living individual makers to be inauthentic (Steiner 1994). in which the paintings. Folk art and primitive art have in common that they are supposed to be produced by ordinary persons whose names are not simply unknown but irrelevant. they were the last areas to be admitted as potential producers of art.

and Monet. in which they also failed as modern art. Vermont. Shelburne. Tylor’s more charitable view. The constituent categories of the idea of art are found in our discursive categories but are also concretely institutionalized. quilts. housed in a collection of log cabins. Lewis Henry Morgan’s opinion in 1877 is representative: “All primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible”. announces the patronage that defines it. minus original utilities such as the bathroom.” Myers notes. Even Malinowski. “Such criticisms. folk art or primitive art. because by its standards they were no more than second-rate neo-Expressionism. seashell sculptures. In the Shelburne Museum. enduring myths. Degas. In the United States. failed as primitive art because they had been contaminated by Western influence. From Artifacts to Art Among the commentaries on museum collections. 1996). Objects of each kind are normally housed in museums specializing in them and supported by the corresponding specialized journals and professional associations. The public. anthropology still assumed that primitive cultures generated no ideas worth translating (Evans-Pritchard 1965: 105–108). we must first become aware of our own. though Franz – 252 – . trade signs. students of Native America were much more sympathetic to indigenous thought. the great age of imperial looting. and has until recently restricted itself to primitive art. as Suzanne Blier calls them.” denied that native society could have its intelligent members from whom indigenous theories could be elicited. anthropology came late to the field. The idea of art is still critically bound up with the idea we form of civilization. which are ethnographically interesting in their own right (Blier. B. hand-pumped fire-engines and craftsman’s tools. our best guide to primitive thinking was the memory of our own childish days. In the nineteenth century. To convey “their” meanings.Wyatt MacGaffey vegetable dyes on bark. and the self-described “postmodernist” perspective (incorporating some oldfashioned Marxist rhetoric). and has been instructed at some level in the nature of the experience they should have when visiting one. for all his insistence on recording “the native’s point of view. they are also about how we see “ourselves” in relation to “them” (Myers 1995: 81). On a hill dominating the scene is a Greek Revival mansion specially constructed to house the New York City apartment of the wealthy collector and her husband. even though unable to define art. cigar-store Indians. which denied that the works should be called art at all. barns. “are part of the discursive practices that define ‘high art’”. country stores and other antique buildings. the modernist. an enormous and magnificent collection of weathervanes. The living quarters are furnished with European paneling and paintings by Rembrandt. constantly impede the task of translation. in E. knows what to expect in collections bearing these labels. including art.

it was not until the 1960s that the work of Victor Turner. anthropologists themselves still tend to reinforce the distorting effects of Western cosmographic assumptions. anthropologists engaged in a prolonged and only partly successful struggle against the invidious distinctions built into the idea of art. but attention focused primarily on sculptural forms that corresponded well to the classical notion of representational art. as political developments in African colonies tended toward independence. Primitive art. anthropologists sought admission for primitive art into the exclusive precincts of fine art by arguing that it met the traditional requirements for European art. or the exhibition of the works in bland and pillared spaces to be contemplated in the quasi-religious silence of “exalted looking” (MacGaffey 1998: 225–7). but it was generally assumed that they represented a Mediterranean intrusion into coastal West Africa. They insisted that the makers of primitive art were admired locally for their individual talent. art styles change rapidly over time” (Anderson 1979: 6). Anderson’s characterization is explicitly residual: “We need the term ‘primitive art’ because nonprimitive societies typically have art based on complex technology.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Boas’ pioneering Primitive Art (1927) was virtually restricted to formal analysis. pioneers such as William Fagg began the critical documentation of African art. artists tend to be full time specialists. we are to believe. Luc de Heusch and Mary Douglas made the study of other people’s “meanings” generally acceptable. is essentially different from fine art because it is produced by people with simple technology. they were aided by the twentieth-century movements known as anti-art. In the 1950s. there is great diversity of art styles. much of it by anthropologists. endlessly – 253 – . In 1954. In short. that their ateliers produced works commercially for distant markets. A dramatic increase in prices encouraged the relabeling of more and more types of objects as “art. the study of art in Africa. In the course of the struggle. that they were consciously creative and attentive to explicit aesthetic criteria. Bronzes looted from the Benin kingdom by the British in 1898 were the first African objects to be accorded the status of art. and that the works themselves embodied moral and historical themes.”9 Besides reporting ethnographically on the arts of others and the contexts of their production. The founding of the journal African Arts in 1967 and the publication of the symposium Tradition and Creativity in Tribal Art (Biebuyck 1969) marked this new phase. whose training is haphazard and who work part-time. Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). linked to rising interest in African objects on the part of art collectors. On the other hand.8 In African studies the first attempt to take seriously an indigenous system was Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft. art training is institutionalized in schools. which challenged those same requirements from within and denied that art should be defined by the “hand” of the artist. became a growth industry. the use of noble materials. Daryll Forde’s symposium on African cosmologies was still greeted with skepticism by British anthropologists. During the 1960s.

as recent studies reveal the presence of art schools. individual masters. Presumably. without explaining why (Layton 1991). Peter Schjeldahl recently reiterated the traditional curatorial view of the war between words and images: “Wall texts are a bane of late twentieth-century museology. Opposition continues between the curatorial approach. Traditional views are changing. William Rubin set aside any evolutionary connotation of the word “primitive. art historians. even though they do not carry his graffiti about with them. Layton restricts the anthropology of art to the products of small-scale societies. 9). the only theoretical approach worthy of the name is the late Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency (Gell 1998). insisting that they should only gather facts. are most likely to reject the services of professional guides and recorded commentaries (Bourdieu and Darbel 1990: 69). The debate about how much translation should be added to exhibited artworks is intimately related to class. and the knowledge of how to use them. are resistant to theory. In principle. by drawing their attention to extrinsic or anecdotal matters. however. and the ethnographic approach. turning art shows into walkin brochures. which seeks to translate the meaning of the objects by means of placards and increasingly weighty companion volumes. We can’t help but read them – I defy anyone to ignore writing on walls – and thus are jerked from silent reverie into nattering pedagogy. the classes best equipped with such aids as guidebooks and catalogs. and training programs in the space once occupied by the blandly fallacious construction of the primitive. expressing the eternal but inarticulate ethos of a particular tribe. is to be unaware that the ideal of – 254 – . including anthropologists. In the anthropology of art.Wyatt MacGaffey reproducing the same things.” but also declared that ethnographic information was irrelevant to the discovery of formal similarities between Western and other artworks (Rubin 1984). Art and education are terrible bedfellows” (Schjeldahl 1999: 83). as Bourdieu reported after an intensive investigation into the experiences of European museum-goers. and as the rapidly growing field of museum studies reveals the tacit assumptions underlying choices about what to exhibit and how. such as linguistics. Schjeldahl hopes that museum-goers will read what he writes. in the second edition of his textbook. semiotics and philosophy (McNaughton 1993). The result was denounced by critics as an imperialistic expropriation and an attempt to demonstrate the universal inevitability of the modern (Clifford 1988: ch. those that do venture into theory mostly borrow from other disciplines. emphasizing an entirely visual experience of art. In every exhibition difficult decisions have to be made about the amount of ethnographic information to include. In his enormous “Primitivism” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984. rigorous theory should enable the anthropology of art to transcend its cultural commitments. Knowledge and taste arrange themselves in constellations linked to level of education. More recently. “To fear that written or spoken information about the works on display diverts visitors from the works themselves. In practice.

The style of the museum’s building and its announcements of the kind of art within go far toward shaping the visitor’s self-definition and his or her sense of the experience to come. thus presents itself in different ways depending on the category of art in question and the social background of the audience.” The idea of art as illusionistic representation of something other than itself is replaced by the idea that the experience of art should be a purely visual encounter between the work and the viewer. for them. Conceptualists such as Joseph Kosuth discovered this. in the proper context – that is. It is argued with respect to fine art. and believes that it can exist in and for itself. it wants nothing further to do with the object as such. In much of twentieth-century art theory. “the linguistic nature of art. Leading American museums usually include a section of African arts. perception. out of words.” in the 1960s. the eye is guided by the context of exhibition and by abundant verbiage available. anthropology is defined by what anthropologists do. to which the public responded often enough with bewilderment. though – 255 – . If you make paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of art” (Prinz 1991: 47). art is said to be “about” nothing except itself. The question of interpretation. Reframing Translating art begins with framing and reframing the physical experience of encountering art.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art contemplation without words or actions is only characteristic of those who possess the immediate familiarity acquired by the imperceptible training of prolonged exposure” (ibid. answers to the question “What does it mean?”). As Malevich put it in his “Suprematist” manifesto of 1913. with apparent indignation. Art came to be more and more an insider’s game.: 53). if I may use “translation” broadly to include information concerning the intent of the artist and the accepted evaluations of the work (that is. in the presence of the proper ventriloquist – statements about the nature of space. or the translation of meaning and value. In practice. as it has been said. They reappropriated art by making it. then art is whatever art critics write about. in the museum’s bookshop. If. Erstwhile “primitive artifacts” are now increasingly being accorded the kind of architectural framing that announces their status as art. without things. “The colored daubs and streaks on the canvas become. and representation” (Mitchell 1986: 42). its implicit gendering. and the autonomy of the art work itself. which for most people takes place in a museum or gallery. “Art no longer cares to serve the state or religion. being an artist came to mean “questioning the nature of art. and producing innumerable works which “challenged the viewer’s assumptions” about the metapragmatics of the possibility of art. it no longer wishes to illustrate the history of manners. at a price. literally.

African studio artists objected to being labeled as “African. static. Los Angeles). The French government’s recent rethinking of the place of primitive arts. In a series of exhibitions at the Museum for African Art in New York. and the commentaries attached to them. “Africa. “Art/artifact” (1988) discussed the careers followed by the objects on their way to becoming “art. appropriate to art. in his elaborate presentation of “African Art in Motion” at the National Gallery in Washington D. but radically different from and superior to whatever Africans have produced and are producing in colonial and postcolonial times. and the planned construction of a grand new museum. Robert Farris Thompson. The great collection of art from northeastern Congo acquired by the American Museum of Natural History in 1915. in 1974 (originally at the University of California. dance. that the objects are displayed and lit in a different way. voyeuristic sense of African sculptures that the camera gives us. resituating these objects in an alternative category means that visitors arrive with different expectations.” the qualities of whose products could be independently discussed. according to Enid Schildkrout. He violated “fine art” conventions by complementing the objects with continuous audio-visual recordings. textiles and blown-up photographs.” aware that the term is close cousin to “primitive” and seems to exclude their work from the dignities of universal art. Though widely praised. Vogel sought new lines of critical thinking about African artistic production. In a later exhibition in the same locale he was obliged to revert to a more restrained curatorial style and relegate his commentaries to an accompanying volume (Thompson and Cornet 1981).” and the effects of showing them in a variety of display styles. performance-oriented nature of the pieces themselves. called “Africa Explores: Twentieth Century African Art” (1991) was intended to challenge the idea of art in Africa as tribal. and for being conventionally ethnocentric. which could not have been exhibited then as art. curator of “African Reflections” (Schildkrout and Keim 1990). and conventional. led to the massive and controversial exhibit “Magiciens de la Terre” at the Centre Pompidou in 1989.Wyatt MacGaffey European museums are still segregated. Critics asked whether there is a discrete unity. Susan Vogel experimented with different perspectives. the show was also condemned both for overturning traditional categories and perspectives.C. “Closeup” (1990) explored the tension between the simplifying. the introduction of a small section of “primal” masterpieces in the Louvre. replacing the expression “arts primitifs” with “arts premiers” (whose implications are similar!). Reframing extends to the way exhibits are mounted. Vogel’s most ambitious venture. in 1990 could not have been exhibited as anything else. and bodily gesture. amid intense argument. Besides showing examples of a wide variety of visually interesting objects. insisted that African art could only be understood in relation to ritual. and the three-dimensional. They objected to the display of cartoon-like popular painting and trade signs – 256 – . as it was meant to do. and that the accompanying narrative also changes.

as Steiner describes it. although the latter’s product will inevitably fall still further short of “completeness”. It is not clear. Even within one language. forces reconceptualization in the current political context. art in Africa is an experience of certain objects.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art (not unlike those one can see at the Shelburne) as equally “African art” alongside the products of studio artists. which they saw as raising traditionally Western issues and selecting its own answers. The complete penetrative grasp of a text. Like other art. George Steiner begins his book on language and translation with critical interpretations of passages from Shakespeare. the disciplinary boundary is no longer clear. and it is not to be expected that any translation will earn consensus. however. Kubla Khan (Fernandez 1982: 9–11). Translation in art resembles any other. meanings vary in time and space. And some denounced the ethnocentrism of the entire project. The answer to the question “What does this mean?” must begin – 257 – . literature. but good ones are best regarded as works of art in their own right. besides challenging the enduring myths. Translations are always approximate.” although the contributors now often include specialists in history. is an act whose realization can be precisely felt but is nearly impossible to paraphrase or systematize” (Steiner 1975: 25). but may be aided by the fact that the art works are there to “speak” for themselves. on the other hand. complement the visual experience by ethnographically based interpretations of the works. . impossible to replicate. is closely similar to that of the ethnographer. says Steiner. not just the objects themselves. showing how much interpretation is needed before the modern reader can come close to the resonances the texts may have had for their original audiences. Modern-art historians working in Africa usually engage in extended fieldwork in the anthropological manner. the complete discovery and recreative apprehension of its life-forms . Such commentary is traditionally “anthropological. He goes on to list the lexical aids available to the student of English literature. argument itself. And. we should add. But.” The task of literary interpretation. philosophy and other disciplines. Jane Austen and Rossetti. . despite Steiner’s confident use of the word “complete. the arguments are political. including for example the Admiralty’s Dictionary of Naval Equivalents. which helps us to understand The Wreck of the Deutschland (no such sophisticated tools are available to most ethnographers). Fundamentally. that African artists and critics would have any less difficulty than Aborigines do in translating their meanings across categories and preconceptions to a foreign audience. Translating The hefty volumes that accompany recent exhibits include essays which. the comparison is explicit in Fernandez’ approach to the Gabonese cult of Bwiti as an imaginative constellation of images comparable to Coleridge’s poem. “these are externals.

and should be available only to specially qualified persons. Anthropologists. and by the practical needs of government. for example. “‘Art’ cannot be described from a Baule point of view at all. Whereas the classical function of art was to brag abut power. on the other hand. devoted to Baule art from Côte d’Ivoire. This institutional plurality (in the United States or Canada. are respected and visually powerful – the experience of the objects.” Vogel found that in order to understand Baule art she was obliged to explore lived facts of Baule existence. draws attention to the necessary boundaries of knowledge by concealing as well as revealing. objects are displayed in them in ways favorable to exalted looking. such as that of privacy. like artworks elsewhere. museums and galleries are ideally open to everyone. is traditionally the subject matter of anthropology. In art. and when. practices and symbols resemble those of the corresponding institutions elsewhere. and probably includes museums and possibly art schools. is likely to be very different from that of the museum or gallery.” But her many years of research have led her to the uncomfortable knowledge that Baule categories of objects and experience are so different from those of the culture to which the book is addressed that no direct translation is possible. real knowledge is dangerous. business. On the other hand. in Washington D. African ideas of knowledge are more realistic: knowledge that is free and open to everybody is not worth having. The dominant Western idea of knowledge since the Enlightenment is that it is a public good. African “art”. as Mary Nooter put it in the title of an exhibition and the accompanying book devoted to this topic: the visible functions to keep the invisible invisible (Nooter 1993).. the military and the judicial system. all countries in the world today incorporate a “modern” institutional sector whose buildings. This idea is necessarily contradicted by others. to their own considerable embarrassment. dominate discussion and political conflict. In the book accompanying her most recent exhibition. the divide between Native America and the dominant sector). have not yet established a satisfactory vocabulary to designate such “otherness. It creates translation problems of another order than those of the distance between Shakespeare’s England and George Steiner’s. in rituals and sumptuary displays. questions about who did or should have known what.C. simply because their view does not include ‘art’ in the Western sense of the word.” Seeing and Not Seeing The concept of a “show” or exhibition creates the first problem. or between Norwegian and Italian. – 258 – . Susan Vogel says that if she had written it earlier she would have used the language of art history to present the objects as Baule “art.Wyatt MacGaffey with statements that – though the objects. from which it is believed that profound though unspecifiable benefit can be derived. to which everybody should have access. African art is more likely to hint at it.

The much-admired “caryatid” stools of the Luba in Congo are owned only by kings and spirit mediums. When the carver has completed it. “neither approach is wrong. stay put to be contemplated in silent reverie. The relationship between words and images is a vexed question with a long history in Western art. the great mother. when at home. “swathed in white. which otherwise is just a piece of wood. The tendency in twentiethcentury art. but nobody would “look at” one (Vogel 1997: 92). Other artworks may be seen only by initiates. and fastidiously preserved by an appointed official. described by Henry Drewal: “Preliminary masqueraders prepare the entrance of Eyánlá. the elders apply medicines to empower the mask.” such a stool. such as “food and eyeglasses. an African art object may be returned to its special place. the less it is displayed. using a prescribed type of wood obtained from the forest in a prescribed fashion. she believes. or even “who it is. who comes in total darkness . matching her steps with the drum rhythms. the elders of the cult flock around her to limit the audience’s view of the headdress. which is carried in an almost horizontal position and largely obscured by a long white cloth. but many objects now collected as art would otherwise have been thrown away after use. or only by men.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art including many. The result of this exploration. amid noise and dust. just as in public debates the most senior and respected people speak the least” (Vogel 1997: 108). which it is the function of the mask to hide. “The more important a Baule sculpture is. the Eyánlá mask is kept partially or completely concealed. slow dance. govern people’s reactions as much as any visible motifs (Drewal 1977). When not in use. which is not a seat but a repository for the king’s spirit.” After creating the expected effect. it dances. is to insist that the visible object is sufficient unto – 259 – .” As she moves in a gentle. . but what it does. the medicines. but neither is complete” (Vogel 1997: 17). . It may rush past in deliberate obscurity.” that seem to have nothing to do with artworks but are just as relevant to them as Baule ontology and spiritual beliefs. An African object that becomes art in a museum does not. as we have seen. parallels rather than substitutes for the appreciation of Baule work that can be developed from the perspective of Western museum culture. for no one must gaze on the face of the mother. What matters may not be what the thing looks like. What Are We Looking At? The next problem is to label the object. as does the Yoruba mask Eyánlá. Africans may conserve but do not “collect” their art and – so far from being trapped in tradition – make a point of freeing themselves from the dictates of the copy (Strother 1998: 31). Baule may admit to having “seen” such sacred things as a men’s mask. is only rarely brought out (Roberts and Roberts 1996: 154).

not Kavuna’s own. observe its rules lest it be annoyed and punish you. which makes all the difference between Beatrice Cenci the Day Before her Execution and the same painting if it had been entitled Young Girl with Hay Fever (Mitchell 1986: 40). Mitchell quotes Mark Twain on the power of the label. and it includes disputable and perhaps tendentious glosses such as “taboo. conceptual or practical equivalent in English. and to make a profit. African cultures generally make no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. fertility cults or ancestor worship fit in with popular notions of the “spirituality” of “simple societies” but are often at best half-truths reiterating evolutionary assumptions in updated form. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. a water nkisi with power to afflict and to heal. as curator of an exhibition of Kongo objects formerly known as fetishes. I decided to use the indigenous term for them throughout. Portuguese and Dutch sailors and merchants gradually adapted an illdefined Portuguese term that became not only the word “fetish” but a whole theory of African culture. Reading the translation does not lead to an immediate and profound understanding of what nkisi means to KiKongo speakers.” At the National Museum of African Art in 1993. but in fact commentary has always been an essential adjunct of the artwork. but does not participate in it. Labels referring to fetishes. and of relics of the dead. art historians bothered by the derogatory connotation of “fetish” began to use the term “power-object” instead. They are composed to visit consequences upon thieves. They are composed in order to relieve and benefit people. the physical and the spiritual (Wiredu 1992: 324–5). Also to oppress people.Wyatt MacGaffey itself. in fact. They are composed of earths. those who steal by sorcery. we may require our translation to include a certain number of terms regarded as essential to “meaning” but also as “untranslatable. A translation is a metaphor. These are the properties of minkisi. W. other minkisi have these powers also. and also to remove it. As African art and religion came to be better known in the late twentieth century. subsequently used by European philosophers such as Hegel to characterize their idea of the absence of civilization. To destroy. conjuration and consecration. The translation is mine. T. KiKongo: In my country there is a nkisi called Na Kongo. It knows no mercy. J. The way of every nkisi is this: when you have composed it. to cause sickness in a man. To impose taboos on things and to remove them. to benefit. To look after their owners and to visit retribution upon them. Reacting against this estrangement. but it does prepare – 260 – . ashes. a structure of relations in the target language which is allegedly analogous to a structure in the original. They receive these powers by composition. herbs and leaves. to kill.” itself a word with a certain imperial history. witches. The first thing visitors encountered was a photograph of Simon Kavuna and the translation of a text written by him in 1915 in his own language. and those who harbor witchcraft powers. This text shows clearly why nkisi has no verbal.

– 261 – . How many such terms (and their interrelations) are to be incorporated? Should I oblige my reader to get used to not only nkisi but also nsiku. Africans may well reverse the order of priority. to provide acoustic and visual enhancement of the dancing body (Strother 1998). The museum or curatorial approach characteristically focuses on the merit and authenticity of the portable and saleable object. much of which did not look like art to the collector or which did not lend itself to transportation. kindoki and more? A fully metonymic “translation. the originator seeks out competent drummers with whom to develop the rhythms. Having worked out the steps. The last expert to be consulted is the sculptor who will make a mask consistent with the dance and the theme of the song that accompanies it. contextual information such as the object’s ritual use or the mythology associated with it may be considered but only as a supplement. is only part of a costume intended. would necessarily be written in the original language and thus fail completely – except perhaps as an insider’s joke. but may well have been expected primarily to make something happen. even though it retains all of its necessary constituents and is therefore physically identical to the connoisseur’s “African artwork. Zoë Strother found that the making of a mask always begins with the idea for a dance.” “empty” (mpamba) and of no particular interest. and storage. The performance itself had aspects of entertainment or commemoration.” continuous with the original. Having identified the object. The wooden mask itself. the role to be played by the wearer during a masquerade” (Mulinda 1995: 158). the KiKongo term has been widely adopted in other exhibitions and commentaries dealing with Kongo art. we will probably have to explain that the thing on view is only a reduced version of the original. Strother says. A Kongo authority says of Kongo Ndunga masks that the carved wood part “is clearly incomplete and devoid of meaning unless we take account of many additional elements that specify and dictate. the masquerade performance centers on a dialogue between drummer and dancer. transportation. the object.” is “vain. that it perhaps was never sufficient unto itself but was something like a stage prop in a performance that the viewer will have to imagine. In her recent research on the makers of masks among the BaPende of Congo. through a proverb. that it has suffered damage in the process of collection. that it was taken out of a more extensive material apparatus. translation may have to explain that the forces to be manipulated have no direct equivalents in the viewer’s experience or vocabulary.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art the reader to interpret further information more thoughtfully. An nkisiobject is only potent when the rules it imposes on those associated with it are being observed and while the expert for whom it was composed is still alive. nganga. as it may eventually be displayed on the wall of a museum. in the same way that a photograph of a famous photograph can be presented as a work of art in its own right.10 Since the exhibition. from which all else follows. if these conditions are not met.

The female figures in Luba stools. she embodies both genders. transforming it into a bulging protrusion visible from a distance. A large rock in Lower Congo “is” (represents?) the late chief Me Mbuku Mbangala in his new role as a simbi spirit because it marks his presence at a particular place. who “possesses two bodies”. Representation. These are brief quotations from elaborate Pende theories relating appearance to personality. is not a portrait of a punitive force but a visual statement of the relationship between that force and the unknown individual against whom it is to act. it has not been collected as art because it is heavy and ordinary to look at. with few (and debatable) exceptions they have avoided doing so until recent times. 106). are those of ideally beautiful women. it indicates the ambiguous otherness of the mother. with threatening arm upraised and bristling with nails. The upper lip is triangular. however. An anthropomorphic nkisi.” The relatively large size of the mask indicates its importance.” Much of the critique directed against primitive art held that it represented reality incompetently. and the long white cloth symbolizes the unity and prosperity of the community. The “beard” is no ordinary beard. The object in its original context may have been “read” as much as it was “seen. which Strother compares at some length to Western physiognomies. “The mouth of a man must be like an angry person . Pende sculptors made it clear to Strother that good sculpture abstracts from the physical appearance of real individuals to express deeper truths. the prominence of the forehead suggests that it is swollen with spiritual force. took pride in its “realism. finding that both kinds are “powerful systems for naturalizing social and cultural difference by making it seem natural and inevitable” (p.” In certain kinds of African art. and suggests by analogy that she mediates between this visible world and the more powerful world of spirits. the viewer of objects now exhibited in a museum who seeks to understand them must be prepared to deal with complex codes relating to essence rather than appearance. In short. Eyánlá is a bold. Drewal says that the names of the empowering medicines applied to Eyánlá may have double – 262 – .Wyatt MacGaffey Representation Classical European art. particularly after the discovery of vanishing-point perspective. but its function is similar to that of an nkisi which might be so collected. They choose to emphasize the projecting ridge over the eyes in a male face. simple shape. can take many forms. women have lowered lips” (Strother 1998: 133–35). flat “beard. standing for a complex of ideas about kingship and its secrets. the words that give meaning are “built in. whose relations are at issue in the cult. .” quite apart from songs sung and stories told in accompaniment. . consisting of a head with a long. but they are not portraits of any particular woman. that is. and is always selective (Gell 1998: 25–26). the details of which it is composed include a checklist of the restrictions and procedures to be observe when it is invoked (MacGaffey 2000: 113). Though sculptors are perfectly capable of carving likenesses.

experienced and conserved. the accompanying narrative is now likely to argue for their artistic value. Many of the medicines in a Kongo nkisi are included on the same principle. but those that were would have more than a visual impact on native speakers. Art attracts a wider public than most ethnography (the number of museumgoers rises by the millions every decade). although the public may not have been aware of it. translators still face the basic anthropological problem that societies (by definition) vary in their institutional structure – that is. who know about this sort of thing. If elements of chauvinism. Conclusion The work of translating art (endowing an object with an enabling narrative) takes place at several levels.” can also be translated “come down join us”. who may then be able to discuss with them his or her best understanding of the subtle congruences and noncongruences between Baule or Yoruba values and more familiar ones. and therefore presents anthropologists and other translators with a special opportunity to show that exotic arts are more than curiosities. which contains a set of invidious moral distinctions closely related to the ideological functions of art in modern society. whereas a century ago they would have been presented not as art at all but as evidence of the superiority of the society that had acquired it. If the – 263 – . maintained. For example. and that little-known cultures are as full of interest as others. Museum studies today pay much attention to the ways in which guiding narratives are implicit in the museum itself and the selection of the objects. In the present context.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art meanings. racism and condescension should be eliminated. The narrative is also likely to dwell on the history of the more or less violent ways in which many of them were acquired. opposed and eventually changed by political action. narratives about fine art have conveyed the message that great art is almost exclusively the work of men. translation and retranslation. recent books and exhibitions have been devoted to exposing and rewriting this story. but most people are not anthropologically trained. Impediments to translation in art include the art idea itself. Such distinctions are created. dust from the road induces target persons to go in a particular direction (Drewal 1977: 77). not all of them would be visible. It is still not fully resolved that “fine art” is not exclusively the product of Western or “modern” society. Kukubole. the way they are organized to carry out basic social functions. provide a relatively sympathetic and receptive audience for the translator. including critical commentary. Anthropologists. “dust from the road. the principal relevant difference lies in the way objects destined to be set apart as sacred (because instrumental in maintaining social values both central and contested) are produced. When the objects come from some other society altogether.

mentions “’balmed New Zealand heads. such as the one that became the Victoria and Albert.” 3. Museums devoted to ornament and design. of course. in Moby Dick. Notes 1. superficial and extraneous (Robbins 1976: quoting a critic in the New York Times. still widely held. 6. 5. . The Ethnological Society of Paris was founded in 1839. great curios you know. from works that are not. alive and dead. 1866. 1878. I have given brief samples from a rich recent literature on African art. was inaccessible to scholarship. Human beings. but which are helping to demolish earlier views of primitive art still entrenched in the minds of all too many people. were originally ridiculed. close to nature. definitive. how it was made and used.” which beyond a certain point rejected instruction. though in fact it is patronizing.Wyatt MacGaffey power of the artwork as presented sufficiently motivates the viewer to take time for words. most of my examples in this chapter will refer to African objects and the ways in which they have been presented. Trocadéro – 264 – . Japanese artists. They are helping to deconstruct the category itself. . Berlin. and whatever other aspects of the cultural context are relevant to reach some understanding of what it meant to those who produced it. Museum für Völkerkunde. 4. It is very much as if children played at pirates or detectives till they no longer knew where play acting ended and reality began” (Gombrich 1995: 43). nor meant to be. Since I am by profession an anthropologist specializing in Central Africa. “Negro art” from Africa was valued by some in the 1920’s because of the supposed limitations of “the Negro mind. 1868. 2. the Peabody Museum. and incapable of abstraction (Connelly 1995: 15). is believed by those who hold it to be generous. commentary can explain what kind of object this is. The fifteenth edition of Gombrich’s The Story of Art still tells us that tribesmen “sometimes live in a kind of dream-world in which they can be man and animal at the same time .” Curios are now produced in large quantities for tourist and foreign markets and sold under such names as “international culture. Herman Melville. were also imported as curios and exhibited in various entertainments and museums right through to the end of the twentieth century (Lindfors 1999). Harvard. remained primitive and therefore retained basic ideas which were not frittered away by the invasion of the supplementary. 1923). were described in the late nineteenth century as childlike. a stage in an ongoing ideological process. This romantic view. incredibly.

1996. . . he will enable the reader to create from their elements new combinations that will be closer to the ‘native experience’ being recorded” (Ardener 1989: 94. The Predicament of Culture. Blier. K. 1988. A work with meaning was one that can be interpreted as representing some object or idea. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Connelly. S. 1977. Boas. Ardener. 1927. MacGaffey 2000: 50). New York: Basil Blackwell. . realistically or symbolically. Outstanding examples of Kongo “nail fetishes” (nkisi nkondi) now sell for upwards of one million dollars. The Love of Art: European Art Museums and their Public. New York: Prentice-Hall. “The good ethnographer must . Chapter 3 in this volume). New York: Dover. . The first picture of one in the journal African Arts appeared in a commercial advertisement in 1968.). and hope that by applying enough of them. Curry suggests that perhaps the best definition of “American folk art” is that it is stuff collected as such in the early twentieth century by people with certain attitudes (Curry 1987). 1979. 1995. The term “folklore” itself was coined in 1846. “The Paradox of Folk Art. J. – 265 – . and A. P. Berkeley: University of California Press. “Enduring Myths of African Art. References Ames. Edwin Ardener called this approach in translation the method of language shadows.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Museum. Belgium. Art in Primitive Societies. Clifford. Cambridge. the first version of the Congo Museum in Tervuren. R. 1990 [1969].” In Africa: Art of a Continent. Winterthur Museum. Boas distinguished art from decoration by the presence of meaning. Primitive Art. 8. F. 1898. 1989. The Sleep of Reason: Primitivism in Modern European Art and Aesthetics. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 9. Anderson. F. the first as an illustration to an article only in 1972. L. use categories and labels in an ambiguous manner . D. 1969. New York: Guggenheim Museum. In this way the ethnographic text “at least provides in toto a chunk of something of a descriptive backing so the term can denote for the reader who makes it to the end” (Michael Silverstein. (ed. folklore societies were founded in Britain in 1878 and in America in 1888. E. 7.” In Beyond Necessity. MA: Harvard University Press. S. Bourdieu. Biebuyck. The Voice of Prophecy and Other Essays. Paris (now the Musée de l’Homme). 10. Darbel. Tradition and Creativity in Tribal Art.

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Morgan understood that if people recognize that in their own culture the kin terms that they use form a system. The problem. and this time he was critical of them. was that missionaries did not know their own kinship systems and even after it was explained to them. 134). as we shall point out below. nor do they deal with the question of how they have handled translations. Morgan returned to the topic of missionaries working among Native Americans. he noted they had difficulty in filling out the schedules. was based upon schedules of kin terms. However. some ethnographers. while others were obtained by American missionaries and consular officials overseas. Comparativists from Morgan to Murdock have used kinship terminologies which others collected without questioning their accuracy. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity in the Human Family. Initially Morgan praised the work of the missionaries because they resided for longer periods of time in distant places. considered the quality of the translation of the terms from the original language into their English equivalents. Kinship terminology is a system of classification. in their ethnographies. rarely discuss the degree of control that they have over the languages spoken in the area where they have done their field work. The kinship terminology plays a crucial role in understanding how a kinship system is organized. Though they often resided for fifteen or twenty years among Indians and had extensive knowledge of the language. the radical differences between our system and that of the Indians created additional difficulties (Morgan 1871: 133.–11– Are Kinship Terminologies and Kinship Concepts Translatable? Abraham Rosman and Paula G. working in Papua New Guinea. – 269 – . Only Morgan and Malinowski. For example. Comparative studies of kinship by anthropologists in the nineteenth century assumed that kinship terminologies could be freely translated from one language to another. Rubel The study of kinship systems has been central in the development of anthropological theory. as Morgan saw it. Lewis Henry Morgan’s monumental study of kinship terminologies. did the bulk of their research in Pidgin English (Tok Pisin) rather than in the native language of the people with whom they worked. in the section on Ganowanian kinship terminology. Ethnographers. they are better able to recognize such systems in other cultures and they become aware of the fact that these systems differ from their own. some of which he himself collected. The principles by which it is organized frame experience.

in his discussion. particularly “half-bloods” (his term). South America. father’s sister’s son. Morgan recognized a number of deviations from these propositions including the absence of “aunt” and “uncle” terms among the Crow. It is interesting to note that when Morgan calls these deviations. “Knowing their own method of classification perfectly. who spoke English even imperfectly. . Using the descriptive term was the common “mistake” made in the diplomats’ schedules. Morgan arranges the two hundred odd kinship terms in vertical columns. “. cousin. The basic framework which organized the research described in Systems of Consanguinity was a linguistic one. After the column for each native term there is a column labeled “translation” which contains the English translation. Below the heading are the native terms for a series of different “tribes” or “nations” which Morgan.g. Each column is headed by a kin term described descriptively. father. However. he presented a series of “propositions” which were said to characterize all of the “nations” in the Ganowanian family with the exceptions presented (Morgan 1871: 145ff). . Mexico and Central America. This represents Morgan’s attempt to map the native system on to our own system. and much better than we do our own .g. such as in Africa. Rubel When Morgan collected information himself. rather that a white interpreter well versed in the Indian language” (Morgan 1871: 135). In his charts. such individuals can also have problems in translation because of their own situation and their particular relationship to their American Indian culture. e. were able to provide him with precise information enabling him to trace out the system in minute detail. he found that many Indians. “It will thus be seen that to obtain their system of relationship it was far preferable to consult a native Indian. in contrast to the use of a descriptive term.a.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. He states. the informant gives back the terms “father’s sister’s son” in the Crow or Choctaw language. the same term. he is implicitly assuming English kinship usage as the basis for his evaluation.” they were the most reliable translators (Morgan 1871: 134). In that situation. is used for one’s father and for one’s father’s sister’s son. some of whom had received some schooling. his examination of what he called Ganowanian “structure” verified these propositions. . However.. instead of the Crow term for “father. he does not discuss the “deviation” in which father’s sister’s – 270 – . the philological work that had been done on these languages provided him with his table of organization. ah-h. when the differences of language were too great.” In Crow kinship terminology. groups together into larger families. the failure was nearly complete” (1871: 6). son. Morgan saw linguistic relationships as an indication of a historic relationship. According to Morgan. . For example. its equivalent in our kinship terminological system. Though diplomats were able to procure information on the “Aryan” family for Morgan. e. Though the state of linguistic research on Native American languages was embryonic in Morgan’s time.

a structure different from that of the Dakota and Iroquois.” and then to obtain the Guadalcanal kinship terminology without Rivers knowing the language. However. this method “. Rivers. R.1 As Rivers noted. The recognition that there is a structure or system. first described the way in which he collected the genealogy of an informant from Guadalcanal. Rivers tells us that Arthur. ask my informant the terms which he would apply to the different members of his pedigree [genealogy]. enables one to deal with translation in a more global fashion. was more particularly useful to those who. His knowledge of English enabled Rivers. W. Child. As Morgan notes above. owing to the great difference between the systems of relationship of savage and civilized peoples. . and therefore there will be terms for them in every language. Rivers was aware that the possessive in Melanesian languages takes two forms. there are several points implicit in his discussion. In the article. H. it is desirable to use as few terms denoting kinship as possible. probably as an indentured laborer. nowhere in the text is there any indication that Morgan recognized that these two groups of tribes had the same structure of kinship terminology. in the article. and reciprocally the terms which they would apply to him” (p. had been in Queensland. Rivers at the turn of the century made very significant contributions to the study of kinship. are only able to visit savage or barbarous peoples for comparatively short times. these two groups of tribes are next to one another in Morgan’s chart. Wi) will be found in all societies. . “The Genealogical Method of Anthropological Inquiry” presented a method of collecting kinship terminology which became the standard for future generations of field workers. His article entitled. to elicit his genealogy or “pedigree. times wholly insufficient to acquire that degree of mastery over the native language to enable it to be used as the instrument of intercourse” (p. which we would today call “Crow”. which we now call Iroquois or Dravidian. using the five minimal terms. bilingual native speakers are the best sources of information about the kinship terminology. 100).Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? son is called father not only for the Crow but also for the southeastern tribes like the Creek and Cherokee. Mo. Though Crow and the Southeastern tribes had been placed in different branches or dialect groups. used for parts of the body and for – 271 – . The method which Rivers used to gain information on the kinship terminology was to “. implying some kind of historic relationship. child. . his informant. . and complete pedigrees can be obtained when the terms are limited to the following: father. which is shared by several tribes. One is the assumption that the five minimal terms given above (Fa. 107). that marriage is a cultural universal. like myself. husband and wife” (Rivers 1968 [1910]: 97). As Rivers explains. The more general form is inalienable possession. Hu. Though Rivers does not deal directly with the question of the translation of kinship terminology. that these five statuses or positions are recognized universally. mother. “The first point to be attended to is that. This presupposes that the child everywhere is born from two parents.

(Malinowski 1922: 24) In his analysis of Trobriand horticulture. Malinowski also cautions us about the need to keep “homonyms apart. Rubel “terms of relationship. Malinowski presents his discussion of “the methods used in the collection of ethnographic material”. and how he developed a procedure for translation. though the greater the difference between two cultures the greater the difficulty of finding equivalents” (Malinowski 1965[1935]: 11). . till at last I found myself writing exclusively in that language. I put down more and more in Kiriwinian. The translation often robbed the text of all its significant characteristics – rubbed off all its points – so that gradually I was led to note down certain important phrases just as they were spoken in the native tongue. 11–12).” The second form. he noted. and enables a more accurate translation.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. gardening. Malinowski makes much greater use of ethnographic texts. Trobriand words are to be defined by being placed in the cultural context in which they are used (like competitive kula. This information regarding the way different forms of possessive pronouns are attached to kin terms is important because it provides additional ethnographic information about the meanings of the terms. – 272 – . never to be found. is used for ownership and temporary possession (Rivers 1968 [1910]: 488). 16). Regarding his own work in Kiriwinian. word for word. I found still some difficulty in writing down the statement directly in translation which at first I used to do in the act of taking notes. . This holds true of two civilized languages as well as of a `native’ and a `civilized’ one. In the first chapter of Argonauts of the Western Pacific.” He begins with the “absolutely true proposition that the words of one language are never translatable into another. noting. Since strict verbal equivalents are “. he again discusses this problem. or love magic). but invariably the translation of whole contexts” (pp. and cognates of the word under discussion (p. besides being utilized in the writing up of my account. alienable possession. As my knowledge of the language progressed. The translation must always be a re-creation of the original into something profoundly different. On the other hand. than I recognized that I was thus acquiring at the same time an abundant linguistic material and a series of ethnographic documents which ought to be reproduced as I had fixed them. Coral Gardens and Their Magic. it is never the substitution of word for word. This work also includes a more detailed discussion of translation in general in a section. Malinowski’s solution is to see translation as a matter of representing the cultural reality of one society in the language of another. entitled “The Translation of Untranslatable Words. Since no simple equivalence of word for word is adequate. interestingly enough.” In Malinowski’s “Supplement” to Ogden and Richards The Meaning of Meaning. rapidly taking notes. No sooner had I arrived at this point. word-for-word translation and free translation. and then by having contrastive forms provided which are opposite in meaning. of each statement.

He shows that there are two forms of possessive in the Kiriwinian language. In Malinowski’s eyes. The term (gu) – inalienable “my” – is provided as a suffix or an infix for almost all the kinship terms given in Malinowski’s chart of the kinship terminology. one suspects that it is. not another. That such foreign conceptions do exist for native languages and in great number. and this indeed is the case in Trobriand kinship. since this relationship can be ended through divorce. but to state exactly whether a native word corresponds to an idea at least partially existing for English speakers. However. (1923: 300) In the end. Nowhere does Malinowki describe the method he employed for gathering information on the Trobriand kinship terminology. The implication here is that the ethnographer must have a better than adequate knowledge of the field language in order to successfully convey the cultural reality of his or her informants. When translating alienable and inalienable pronouns into English. as in other Melanesian languages – alienable possessive and inalienable possessive. though this is theoretically inadequate. also recognizes their importance. This may be because the father relationship cannot be ended. As Rivers pointed out. which has a single possessive form. magical rites – all such words are obviously absent from English as from any European language. it is necessary to use the lexical equation of an English and a native word. language is an essential aspect of cultural reality and that cultural reality must be utilized in translations. the term tama takes the inalienable suffix gu like all the other kinship terms save husband and wife. This kind of analysis of pronoun use enables us to have a better understanding of Trobriand ideas about kinship. not by giving their imaginary equivalent – a real one obviously cannot be found – but by explaining the meaning of each of them through an exact Ethnographic account of the sociology. is clear.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? But the object of a scientific translation of a word is not to give its rough equivalent sufficient for practical purposes. the translation must indicate “my” – alienable or “my” – inalienable. Malinowski notes that for “practical convenience”. Though Malinowski does not specifically indicate that this is the alienable form. In our discussions of Rivers. all expressions relating to native beliefs. and not a true relative (veyola). a different prefix (ulo) is given for the terms for husband and wife. All words which describe the native social order. or whether it covers an entirely foreign conception. culture and tradition of that native community. Malinowski makes the point that one must also clearly understand the grammar and general structure of the language which one wishes to translate. Although the father (tama) is considered an affine in Trobriand kinship. in his own analysis of kinship terminology. which is discussed in The – 273 – . Such words can only be translated into English. Malinowski. kinship terms in Melanesian languages almost always take the inalienable form. for grammar compels a speaker to use one grammatical form. ceremonies. we saw that the organization of possessive pronouns was relevant to the consideration of kinship terminology. This is to prevent the ethnography from becoming unreadable by overloading it with native terms.

’ or. the term signifies “lawful woman” with whom both sexual intercourse and marriage are proper (see Malinowski 1929: 450–451). in discussing the kinship term tabu. from the outset. In Leach’s approach.” and all persons called tama in Kiriwinian are equally tama. The term tabugu “also has the wider meaning of ‘grandparent. The primary meaning of a term refers to the first person for whom the child is taught to use the term. Malinowski’s position on meaning and its extension in the use of kinship terms is directly relevant to his approach to translation. Malinowski. is used for the individual who is recognized as the father of the child. in its widest sense. Rubel Sexual Life of Savages. ‘all the women not of the same clan’” (1929: 423). given an entirely different meaning – something like ‘second mother’ or ‘subsidiary mother’ . the term tama. dogs. and he never considers their relation to the Trobriand word tabu meaning “forbidden act. in ego’s own generation. He notes. there can be no doubt that the new use of the word remains always what it is. . When he cannot find a common denominator. . According to Malinowski.’ and wider yet. When the term tama is translated by Malinowski in the ethnography.” – 274 – . The term is extended to a series of men. Did he use Rivers’ genealogical method? Or did he gather the information about kinship terms in the form of a series of texts from which he extracted the terms and information regarding their use? His use of the kin terms and his translations in the text of The Sexual Life of Savages is not consistent. an extension and a metaphor” (1929: 442–443). Malinowski takes the position that the primary meanings of kinship terms are those within the family. ‘all the women of the father’s clan’. He sees kinship terms from the point of view of the order in which a child learns terms. “. In this sense. . Its meaning is then extended to other persons up to the periphery of the vaguely defined boundary. Similarly. by doing this type of translation. by extension. Malinowski does not recognize that there is a principle which places the two sets of kinship terms (“lawful woman” and “ancestor/ descendant”) in the same category. His field notes contain a whole series of genealogies. The result for Malinowski. although she is called by the same term as the own mother. It also embraces ‘father’s sister’s daughter’ or ‘paternal cross-cousin. is very definitely distinguished from her. is the anomaly of a father. inagu. mother’s sister. Malinowski considers such terms anomalous. for example. who. and these are extended to members of other kinds of social groupings beyond the family. The alternative to Malinowski’s approach is Leach’s category approach to kinship terms. Malinowski argues that “The primary meaning of this word is ‘father’s sister’. in its primary meaning. Some kinship usages he even considers to be homonyms. these individuals are referred to as “fathers” by extension.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. in terms of the father relationship. and. tama. The word inagu extended to the mother’s sister is. in The Sexual Life of Savages talks about the “father” relationship. “all dogs belong equally to the category. . He treats them as homonyms. ‘ancestor’ and ‘descendant’” (1929: 442).’ ‘grandchild.

when one attempts to map the meaning of terms in the “native language” onto a Western language the ethnographer’s theory – such as Malinowki’s regarding primary terms and their extensions – plays an important role. When the anthropologist is confronted with the kin term for the first time and the need to translate it.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? The use of the term tama (father) for patrilateral cross-cousin is one of the distinctive features which makes Trobriand kinship terminology a Crow terminology. because the male crosscousin calls his female cross-cousin (MoBrDa) “daughter. However. Nor does Malinowski inform us as to why one extension is “anomalous” and another not. that the behavior toward the two is very different. tama. In the translation of kin terms. implying that FaSi is closer than MoMo though the term for both is tabu. father’s sister’s son. Malinowski says that one looks for an English equivalent. later in the text he states. not MoMo.” What is the relationship between translation and this discussion of the way in which primary kin terms – that is. For example. father’s brother. males of one’s father’s clan (1929: 434). quite a different theory from that of Malinowski. which provides a key to the meaning of the term – that is. As we shall see below. Malinowski argues that Trobrianders can and do differentiate their real father from their father’s sister’s son. terms used within the nuclear family – are extended to kinsmen in other categories of relationship? In translating a term or word into another language. let’s say English. we have no difficulty in distinguishing between our different kinds of “uncles” – maternal vs. affinal. according to Malinowski. rules about preferential or prohibited marriages must always be phrased in kinship terms in the native language. if a Trobriand woman is called latu by a male ego. His argument is that.” tama. this inhibits their sexual feelings and prevents marriage. is “child. in a word or phrase.” treating it like the term for a larger category. the translation applies “father” to “all males of father’s sub-clan” including the father’s heir (his sister’s son). In his “Table of Relationship Terms. father’s clansman. he may not marry her. since the primary meaning of latu.” the cultural context in which the terms are used. and that the meanings of tama differs when applied to the two though they both are classified together in the single category.” Malinowski glosses tama(gu) as “Father. as we noted earlier. or a page of description of “context. how is he or she to know whether or not the term refers to someone within the nuclear family or to someone beyond it? It is the “context of cultural reality. Malinowski never discusses the basis for his saying that the primary meaning of tabu is FaSi. In similar fashion. paternal. “The anomalous extension of the word for father (tama) to father’s sister’s son is important. As they are here. for it demonstrates the influence which language has upon customs and ideas” (1929: 447).” latu. – 275 – . ignoring generational differences. as to whether the primary meaning or one of its extensions is intended.” When confronted with the Trobriand kinship term tama. and she calls him “father. Leach argues that kinship terms are category terms. though we have a single category term uncle. consanguineal vs.

or two-generations-apart-child-of-crosscousin terms to each other are not allowed to marry. Instead. However. “I used pidgin English in talking to the men who had been away to work and Arapesh in talking to everyone else. She does not inform us whether she used Arapesh or pidgin English to collect the terminology. In her discussion of the Arapesh marriage rule. Rubel Though Radcliffe-Brown used kinship terminologies in his comparative research. taught Mead Arapesh. In Margaret Mead’s collaboration with Reo Fortune during their Arapesh field work. I asked. who was fluent in pidgin English. or niece. When I made the census. or nephew” (Mead 1947: 199). the children of parents who use brother and sister. Needham used other people’s translations of Purum. However. under the influence of Lévi-Strauss. Mead “analyzed” Arapesh kinship and the kinship terminology without recognizing that it was an Omaha terminology and the implications of that. – 276 – . both Needham and Leach return to a vigorous consideration of kinship terminologies. as I recorded the names of adult males. or mother’s brother. Fortes paid only lip service to it. Lushai and Kuki terminologies in his analyses. she did not phrase its limits in Arapesh kin terms. Often knowledge of the structure of kinship relationships is of assistance in the translation of kinship terms. one set of cross-cousins (MoBrChildren) are called by the same terms as MoBr and MoSi. . nor may a man marry a woman whom he calls either aunt. she does note that “the word for gens. as we shall see below. is hardly ever used. he assumed the accuracy of the data collected by other ethnographers and never discussed the accuracy of the translations. “EvansPritchard hardly touched it. Later. Regarding Mead’s knowledge of the Arapesh language. the word for clan or gens. in the following manner: “Formally. derived from the Melanesian bird totemic practices. daughter. cross-cousin.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. or cross-cousins. the dominant figures in British social anthropology after him ignored the topic. The pidgin English conversations were. In the Arapesh system. As Schneider notes. nieces and nephews. it was Fortune who studied the Arapesh language and collected texts. Fortune’s linguistic informant. I do not know. like ornaments” (1995: 131). Firth thought it was . awhilap. uncles. she stated the prohibitions on whom one may marry using English kinship terminology. nor may a woman marry a man whom she calls father. it can be concluded that she collected the data. however. without his shedding any light on the problems of translation. whenever necessary. the other set (FaSiChildren) are called by the terms for SiDa and SiSo. supplemented with Arapesh special words” (1940: 337). While Leach was very concerned with the translation and meanings of kin terms. whether I should ever have found it without the help of the pidgin English ‘pigeon’. Since Mead published the data on kinship terminology. But in an Omaha kinship system. there are no separate terms for what would be the equivalent of the English terms aunts. she notes. ‘What pigeon’ and so received at once the local gens proper name” (Mead 1947: 181). .

but in addition they contain meanings regarding marriageability. and he informed us that there was only one term (balohan) and that the other was a misspelling. – 277 – . not only do kinship terms have meanings in that they designate a category of individuals. male children of all members of first descendent generation. in reality. glossed as “Grandson. Reo Fortune had done research on the language in the field and had collected texts in the Arapesh language. and for SoSo and SoDa. in accordance with matrilateral cross-cousin marriage. Some time ago Lévi-Strauss made the point that the function of kin terms was to indicate which relatives ego.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? Mead’s chart of the kinship terminology includes two terms – balahan. which is unquestionably true. In fact. Attempting to use English terms to characterize the marriage rule does not come close to providing an adequate translation of the meanings of the kin terms and the structure to which they are related. is far too narrow.” Reworking her data on kinship terminology in terms of the structure of an Omaha terminology. glossed as “Mother’s father’s sister’s son’s son” and balohan. Radcliffe-Brown and Mead had paid attention to that observation. thereby providing important clues for the translation of these terms. as given above. the marriage rule for the Jinghpaw. anyone called by that term is permitted. the speaker. The structural characteristics of the kinship terminology and the nature of the marriage rule have internal logics of their own. The marriage rule phrased in terms of the terminology provides a map which says that anyone called by this term is prohibited as a spouse. Leach published “Jinghpaw Kinship Terminology. Mead’s definition for the term balahan (balohan). and the latter a lineal relative two generations down from ego. If Malinowski. all other patrilineages were either wife-givers or wife-takers to ego’s own lineage. could and could not marry. just before Lévi-Strauss published Elementary Structures of Kinship. Thus. In this model. We consulted him in 1972 about this anomaly. The translation of kinship terms must therefore pay attention to both of these aspects of meaning. and that kinship terminologies have other functions as well. as MoFaSiSoSo. The terms balohan (male) and baloho’ (female) were used for FaFaSiSoSo and FaFaSiSoDa respectively. it seemed that these two terms were.” in which he analyzed Kachin terms as category terms mapped onto to what Leach refers to as an “idealized form of the social order” (Leach 1945: 51). the former a collateral relative two degrees removed. When phrased in lineage terms it stipulates that ego cannot marry into the six lineages which have given or received women from his lineage in the three previous generations. was also incorrect since that individual’s lineage is neither a giver nor a receiver of women from ego’s lineage. One might argue that Lévi-Strauss’ dictum. their analysis of the respective kinship terminologies they analyzed would have been strengthened. The kinship terminology was examined as it related to the marriage rule. In 1945. the same term and should have been spelled in the same way.

only to relationships within the private domain and thus have quite specific meanings. tama means father). “. 138–139). brother. When you read anything that an anthropologist has written on the topic of kinship terminology be on your guard. the corresponding words in most other languages are highly polysemic” (pp. “This particular linguistic pitfall has in the past led to a vast amount of anthropological confusion. it is a great error to translate Rivers’ five basic terms from a native language (Crow. Rubel Early in this article. Leach begins his discussion by arguing that the Kachin view “relationships” in the same manner as a linguist does in phonological analysis – two male persons belonging to the same lineage have a kin relationship and are terminologically differentiated by the factor of age as younger brother and older brother. According to Leach. The Kachins say “they are distinguishable as brother and brother” (Leach 1967: 136). Therefore in the translation of kin terms. According to Leach. Leach’s approach to kinship terminology emphasizing categories. mother. mayu (wife-givers). According to Leach. whereas in other languages it is applied to a large category of persons and has a wide range of meanings. and dama (wife-takers) – and the relatives in each of these categories live in a different locality. but one must define who and what is included and who and what is not included in a category. Trobriand or Jinghpaw) into “father. the primary meaning deriving from relations within the elementary family and the extensions outward to other more distant relationships. the author himself may not have understood what he is saying” (Leach 1982: 137–138). it still does. this time drawing inspiration from Roman Jakobson. but that he no longer accepted Malinowski’s tenet of the “universality of the elementary family. One brother must refer to the other brother as either older or younger brother.g. as Malinowski does. in contrast to Malinowski’s approach. The term “father” may have a single meaning in English. Leach argues that the Kachin think of kin terms as ‘category’ terms. the problem was to discover the organization which makes Jinghpaw terminology ‘logical’ to a native (1945: 50). his teacher. By the 1960s Leach had become the severest critic of Malinowski’s approach to kinship and kinship terminology. The argument may not mean what you think.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. it is not sufficient to merely use the primary term in English. Leach stated that initially his approach to kinship owed much to the views of Malinowski.” He also rejected Malinowski’s approach to the meaning of kin terms – that is. In Leach’s words. applying a more sophisticated linguistic approach to his reexamination of Jinghpaw kin terms. . Jinghpaw terms fall into three distinct categories – hpu-nau (ElBrYoBr). has clear implications for translation. sister and child” (e. The concept of ‘category’ as found in Kachin must be a very fundamental one for Kachin – 278 – . the problem lies in the fact that. . Leach returned to the Jinghpaw kinship terminology in 1967. while kinship words in most European languages are applied. with rare exceptions.

“. which in turn had important implications for translation. According to Leach. and that the root meanings of kin terms are also in other Kachin words.” the various meanings of Kachin kin terms must all be considered together to arrive at the meaning of the category for which the kin term stands. must go beyond the category meanings of these terms. they are rather the application of the same idea to different situations. fish. who is in one’s mayu lineage.’ According to Leach. The meaning of the category nu (mother). constantly demanding gifts and tribute which the dama lineage must pay. . Just as the English words “kin” and “kind” derive from an older common form. But I think that if we are to understand what the term nu ‘really means’ when considered as a kinship term we need to take these other uses into account” (Leach 1967: 138). It is also the term for “lineage” – that is. birds. The mother’s brother. the metaphors which Kachins employ to represent social links are things which divide rather than things which tie together” (Leach 1967: 136). David Schneider in A Critique of Kinship (1984) not only criticized the ways in which anthropologists had examined kinship terminology earlier.’ and ‘the soft core of anything. The translation of terms within a category will always depend on the cultural context of the particular usage. The implications of Leach’s theoretical approach for the translation of kin terms is considerable. humans are classified in lineages. In Kachin. He is arguing that the same principles of classification that unite and differentiate kinsmen into categories are also operative in other domains. And so it is. payment–debt and exchange. those with whom we fight and those to whom we give women” (Leach 1967: 143). The term myu is the word for ‘kind.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? speakers (Leach 1967: 136). to Leach. One’s mayu ni.’ ‘original. the mayu lineage. a whole range of other meanings of these terms is revealed. As a result of the analysis. can curse his sister’s children. but also advocated what he saw as a new way of looking at kinship. . He had promoted the idea that American – 279 – . “Such uses are not ‘metaphors’.’ as in trees.’ ‘home. includes the other meanings glossed above. .) Leach disagrees with Malinowski’s argument that the different meanings of a term such as the Trobriand term tabu represent homonyms. . “. etc. Through connections between these words and other structures. mother’s lineage. Therefore the translation of kin terms. is the proto-type of ‘different kind’. epitomizes greed. nu also means ‘mother. as used for all mothers and people whom mother calls sister. Ego perceives his dama lineages as. as do “time” and “tide. In the conclusion of the article. the meanings of Kachin kin terms are greatly expanded. demonstrating that the domain of kinship does not exist in isolation. (Mayu and myu are related terms. all of these structures consist of entities which are “divided” rather than “tied together” – thus demonstrating that they are “structural transformations” of one another. Leach maps the structure of kinship terminology onto other Kachin structures – that of the allocation of land–water. The social structural category from which mother comes.

“it is a cultural construct or unit of some kind because there is a word for it. All societies have a category of persons which our culture classifies as “relatives”. since every language has words for kinship categories. each of which is a native “cultural construct”. He argues that ideas about institutions like kinship are Western concepts which anthropologists impose on other societies. Schneider argues that in American kinship there is a basic distinction between affinal terms. following Morgan. “In-law” clearly has other meanings. anthropologists “adhered to the traditional definition of kinship as the relations arising out of reproduction” (1984: 130). . societies construct different categories. the category of kinship seems to rest on assumptions about the biological nature of human reproduction. A kinship terminology is one such system of classification. noting that. In Goodenough’s research on American kinship. The questions we should be asking are: “. art. such as Malinowski. The reasoning behind this is that a half-brother shares common blood. used to refer to a relative created by the marriage of a parent. of what blocks is this particular culture built? How do these people conceptualize their world?” (1984: 197). According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. In Schneider’s view. economics. religion. while stepbrother is created through the marriage of a parent. . it has a name. myth. Schneider claims that anthropologists have always seen kinship as a “privileged system. or the movement of the foot. In fact. What we should be looking at. he found that informants saw “halfbrother” as a kind of brother. and consanguineal terms for “blood” relatives.” (1980: 3). They are homonyms. meaning step as in staircase. according to Schneider. Schneider may be correct when he says the “domain” of kinship is vaguely defined in anthropology. has no relationship to step. Had Schneider attended more closely to what Levi-Strauss borrowed from linguistics and specifically from Boas. . politics. But. he might have looked at how systems of classifications in each language serve to organize semantic domains. . Boas. Schneider concurs.” in terms of “the way in which we define it and its functions” (Schneider 1984: 132). the word has meaning . Rubel kinship was a system of cultural symbols and should be examined in the same manner as other symbolic systems. In the minds of many anthropologists. together form a system or structure. He then proceeds to call into question analyzing culture and dissecting it into separate “institutions” – kinship. etc. one – 280 – . and Lévi-Strauss. – which are alleged to carry out “functions”. A set of kin terms. as contrasted with a blood relative created by natural means. as Leach had pointed out earlier. These are the building blocks of which particular cultures are constructed. which use the modifier “in-law”. The connection between the usages is that a relative-in-law has the connotation of a relationship constructed through legal means. are what Marcel Mauss referred to as “total social facts” (Schneider 1984: 197). the American modifier “step”. Within this domain.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. but not “step-brother” (Goodenough 1965). In his analysis of American kinship.

fewer than the number of logically possible types. to a greater or lesser degree. and religious beliefs have systems of their – 281 – . One would then have recourse to what Malinowski called an examination of how kinship terms were used in a variety of cultural contexts. Each kinship terminology has an internal logic of its own. This leads to cultural relativism. But cultural relativism is not the answer. Other aspects of culture also have a systemic character. Two problems present themselves with regard to the translation of kinship terms. when one element of the system changes. The typologies of kinship structures employed in anthropology are the products of such comparisons. on the basis of which comparisons and typologies can be created. art and aesthetics. Cross-cultural comparisons have demonstrated that both terminologies and the kinship systems of which they are a part fall into a limited number of categories. The knowledge that the field worker has of the language. like the phonological systems of a language. are important factors in this process. A hundred years of ethnographic field work have demonstrated that there are a limited number of ways in which kinship terminology can be ordered. The boundaries of such categories would be determined by specifying their “opposites” and what they contrast with. They are not collections of discreet lexical items. kin terms and the systems which they comprise are translatable. It is a semantic category found in all languages. Rivers’ genealogical method may be used to obtain a preliminary picture of the kinship terminology. the position of many postmodernists. Kinship terminologies echo an important point for translation. untranslatable into those of another culture. Crosscultural comparison involves comparing and contrasting the structure of kinship systems in different societies.2 David Schneider’s critique that the “building blocks” and units for each society should derive from the society itself echoes Boas’ call that linguistic analysis should not proceed by imposing Latin grammatical categories onto native languages of the new world. The constructs utilized in the analysis of kinship terminologies have been refined over the years. Kinship terminology is not ambiguous or vaguely defined. It would appear that Schneider’s dictum would lead to the conclusion that each culture had its own distinctive “cultural constructs”. the rest of the system will change accordingly. The analytical categories must emerge from each language.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? can begin with kinship terminology rather than kinship. The first is the problem that the field worker has in eliciting a kinship terminology from an informant. The semantic categories of a particular society’s kinship terminology are mapped onto a map of genealogical spaces which have English labels. This would illuminate the categories or “spaces” of meaning encompassed by particular kin terms. If one takes into account the cultural context of their use. The construction of each category would be revealed by specifying the cognates of the term and their various referents. and the presence or absence of bilingual informants. they are systems. For example.

Lastly. “Yankee Kinship Terminology: a Problem in Componential Analysis” In Formal Semantic Analysis.). pp. The componential analysis of kinship terminology also deals with categories and the components which comprise their internal construction. became an increasingly formal method of description. Rivers notes that one of the difficulties in obtaining “pedigrees” or genealogies from informants is that there may be a taboo on the use of the names of individuals who are deceased.” These groups and categories vary from one society to the next. —— “The Language of Kachin Kinship: Reflections on a Tikopia Model. componential analysis of kinship terminology in the hands of Lounsbury. kinship terminologies fall into a limited number of types. for the child. Kinship terms label these groups and categories. and how a change in a component creates a different. American Anthropologist (Special Publication) 67(5) pt. 125–52. Rubel own.” In Social Organization: Essays Presented to Raymond Firth. Those others are not. A. The genealogical grid provides the basis for kinship terminologies. it can be of enormous help to the translator. “These are the members of the kinship group to which I belong. those who may steal my cattle or suck my bones when I die. London: Cass. They belong to other categories – those I may or may not marry. 1965. pp. and the development of the analytical categories which allow cross-cultural comparison. 2.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 75.). M. 1947. 2. Leach. pp.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. Edmund. in the dark. for example. Terminologies carry out universal functions in all societies – to chart out. Ward. E. Once this is realized. those who do or don’t practice witchcraft towards me. “Jinghpaw Kinship Terminology – an Experiment in Ethnographic Algebra. Hammel (ed. – 282 – . but they can be specified on a universal genealogical grid. 59–72. contrastive category. 259–87. A single term in one kinship system may encompass a number of kin terms in a different kinship system. Notes 1. He is no longer a lonely walker in space. These are my relatives. 1945. Freedman (ed. with no relationship to systems of marriage and descent or other cultural domains References Goodenough. and each of these types follows its own logic. membership categories which serve as identities defining the self. However.

A. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. pt. R. 1968 [1910]. P. 159–420. 3. 1965 [1935]. David. As told to Richard Handler. R. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 40. 1871.: Smithsonian Institution. Margaret. —— Coral Gardens and their Magic. – 283 – . —— Schneider on Schneider: The Conversion of the Jews and Other Anthropological Stories. 2nd ed. The Mountain Arapesh II. Radcliffe-Brown and C. Rivers. K. No. Durham. Glasgow: Fontana. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. R. —— “The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages” supplement to C. Brace.” African Systems of Kinship and Marriage. Supernaturalism. 1995. A. 296–336. Dutton. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. H. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 37. Forde (eds. Bronislaw. Malinowski. pp. London: Athlone. pt. D. pp 1–85. 1961 [1922]. A. D. —— The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia. Mead. 17.C. 1980. The Meaning of Meaning. NC: Duke University Press. 1984. —— A Critique of the Study of Kinship. 2 vols. 1950. 317–451. pp. 1929. W.” In Kinship and Social Organization. Schneider.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? —— Social Anthropology.). Washington. Radcliffe-Brown. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1923. London: Oxford University Press. Socioeconomic Life. New York: Harcourt. 1982. Richards. —— The Mountain Arapesh III. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. 3. 97–109. pp. Ogden and I. American Kinship: A Cultural Account. “The Genealogical Method in Anthropological Inquiry. New York: Harcourt. New York: E. Lewis Henry. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. Commentaries Raymond Firth and David Schneider. Morgan. pp. “Introduction.


215. 111. Ralph.Index Abu-Lughod. 252 Block. Walter. 98 Bachofen. 32. 76. Franz. 280 Black American English. 197–212. 275–277 Area studies. 1. 157. 56. 190 Moroccan. 67–70 Belief Systems. 279–281. 124 Becker.. 38 Arapesh. 9. 57 Bloom. 18. 160 Adorno. Catholicism. 214. 25. 20. 58–61. Johann. 1 symbolic and interpretive. Richard. 1. 141–143. 38. 182 – 285 – . 46–53. 110 Baule. 180 Balinese. 19. 26. 146–148. 98. Chinua. 112. 25 anthropological translations. 7. Abdalla S. 128. Theodor. 184. 136. Harold. 65. 275 cognitive. P. 147 Aramaic. 192 Cherokee. 63. as a. 26. 263 Bauman. Talal. 55. 6. 112. 155. 19. 16. 188. Gregory. 147. Ned. 38. 177. 12. Mikhail. 116–122. 204–206. 219. Lila. 40 Behaviorism. 183 Bakhtin. 146. 52 Catholic Church. 164 Anthropocentric pragmatism. 84. 29. 32 Burmese. 101 formal academic discipline. 86. 25–27. 92 prehistory of.. 187 Bulmer. 33. 2. 13. 270. 1 social science. 128. 183 Aristotle. 88. 33 Christian faith. 157. 37.. Bertolt. 37. 141–143. 35 Azande. 238 Boas. 254 Boyer. 7. 209. 224–244 Aquinas. Walter. as a. 19. 127 Cargo Cults. 85. 283 Bourdieu. 191. 66. 184 Chomsky. 117. 131. 169. John. 8. 62. Steven. 10. 5.. Alton L. 19. 15 anthropological theory regarding translation. 21. 3. 219 Caton. 36 British social anthropology. 189 Asad. Ruth. 82 Armbrust. 159. 96. 193. 258–9. 135–137. 33. Benedict. 37. 39. 17 Blier. 187. 5. 39. 4 Apocalyptic Literature. 225 Aranda. Susan. 124 analytical concepts in. Emile. 190 Achebe. 164 Basnett. 57 124 cultural translation. 41. 39. Nicholson.L. 41 Bujra. 65. 113. 38 Campbell. 147 Benveniste. Noam. 115. 6 Bateson. 211 Brecht. 253 Baby Talk. 209 Berber. 21. 177–194 Classical. 283 Chinese. 5. 29 Benjamin. 20. 4. 10. J. 265. 4. 198 Anthropology American historical anthropology. 215 Arabic. 253. Pascal. 97 cultural anthropology. 96. 28–31. 28. 36. 232–247 Bilingualism. 218. 16. 12. 213–230. 135–137. Thomas. 181. 271. 32. 45–73 Benedict. James. 182. 39. 201. 213–247 Clifford. 2 Baker. 164. 249–264 Anderson. 112. 184 Austin. 41 African art. 41. 124. 129 Austronesian Languages. Suzanne. 25. 192 Biblical and religious texts. 17. 97. 16.

76. 31. 115. 11–13. 52.Index Coetzee. 207. 253. 113. 117. 94. 179. 189. M. 3. 131.. 250 Coon. 192. 158. 277 French. 2–4. 38. 8. 262 classification systems. 52. 26. 112 Grammar. 201. 269. Jerry. 253. 264 Douglas. 2–5. 38. 8. Ernestine. 16. 166. 200. 160. 184–186. 185 Gell. 62. 7. 113. 210 Fat Syntax. 185. 271 Dresch. Jacques. 66. 184 Filipino. 199–200. 127 Functional-Role Theory. 37. 99. Paul K.. 9. 187 Freud. 206–210. 209. 2. 83–87. 19. 20. 117. 32. 154–170. 197. 63–66. 80. 189 Gender. 10. 187. 253 Fang. 68 Ferguson. 275. 281 Errington. 76. 250 Geertz. 260. 252. 36–38. 96. 29. 211. 109–131. 278 Cultural and Linguistic relativity. tribe of Cameroon. Patrick. 135–148. 32.. John J. 33 German. 270. 57 Dakota. Mary. 91. 213.. 253 Dravidian. 85. Alfred.. 272–276 Ethnopsychological classification. 148–149. 76–81. 216. 276 Fodor. 2. 17. 164 Ethnic Identities. 114–122. 71. Carlton S. 85. M. 161. 110. 12. Reo. colonization. 178 Eickleman. 276 Fagg. 184. 146. 58–64. 27 grammatical categories. 178. 57–69 Cohen. 177–179.. 199. 112. 113. 7. 202 Creek. 187. 229 Frield. 149. Francis. 181 Desconstruction. Joseph. 189 Encyclopaedia of Islam. 52. Hartry. 268 Connelly. 64–66. 76. 178. 162. 188. 250–252. 182. 136. 199. 49 Ethnographic museums. 191–194. 100. 28. 68. 17. 270 Cronin. 240 Gumperz. 10. 272–278. 116. 146. Daryll. 37. 90. 114. 141. 271 De Heusch. 262–3 Dutch. 36. 53. 186 Gal. 256 Comparativism. 96. 129. 265 Folk Theory. 148. 188 English. 36. 268–270. 197–212 Evans-Pritchard. 87 Greek. 35. 190. 19–21. 14. 92. 253 Fortes. 33. in. 130. 276 Fortune. 89. 209. Robert. 162 Ganowanian. Charles A. 120. 69. 121. 16. 227. 118 Field. 90 Cummins. 153. 116. 64 Folk Art. William. 53. 126. 99. 124 – 286 – . Edward E. 17. 88. 77. 183. 96–98. 224. 71 Gaffney. 109–111. Susan. 68. 41 Cognitive Psychology. 95 Derrida. 185. 25–27. 125–128. 100. 57 Fieldwork 1–5. 80. Dale F. 254 Gellner. 269–270 Gauguin. 263. 122. 281 Cultural Systems. 129. 24. 281 grammaticopragmatic categories. 89. 61. 38. 3. Mary. 15 grammatical analysis. 77. 259. Sigmund. Anthony. 214. 186. 18 Spanish conquest of Americas. 249 Ethnographies and Ethnographic texts. 76. 161. 124–126. 18. 265 Forde. 8. 35 Genetics. 276. Clifford. 127.. 168. J. 253 Dean-Otting. 6 Crow. 149. Henry. 128. 182. 198. 153 Firth. 21. 119. 13. 109. 9. 11. 154. 6. 100. 190 Drewal. 32. 54–61. 35–37. Ernest. 239. Paul. 251. 182–184. 181. 56. 100. 79–83. 81. 185 Council of Nicaea and Nicaean Creed. 231–232 Denotational Textuality. 80. 15. 272 comparative. 87. 16. 129 European Contact with New World and Asia 1. 14. 101. 159. 128 Colonialism. 160. 135.. 121–124. 189. Luc. Meyer– 3. 250. Folklore Studies. 130. 191. Raymond. 16. view of cognition.

53 Hermeneutics. 216. 5 Hymes. 280 linguistic anthropology. 149 Heine. George. 80 Heath. Joseph. 237. 177. 186. 18. 272–275. 4. 71 Lyotard. 59. 220. 96. 181. 124 Ifaluk. 52. 165 Hoijer. 90. Robert. 254. 228 Harrell. 182.E. 227–229. 41. 35. 84. 122. 124.. 48. 153 Italian. 170 Jaynes. 249 Keesing. Jean-Francois. 269. 25. 252 Mauss. 65 linguistic ideology. 178. 232. 213–216. 164. 2. 37. 240–244 Jinghpaw. 162 Islamic politics. 89 Kosuth. Dell. 117. 26. 80 Lexicosemantics.L. 276. 92. 214–218. B. T. Bronislaw. Martha. 180. 192 Lingua francas and pidgins 1. Claude. 124 Lancaster.. 149. 233–235. 64 Indonesian.127. Martin. 281 Lawrence. 60. 182. 185–188 Layton. 99. 90. 99. 59–61. 238. William. 191 linguistic-Behavior Conventions. 35 Malevich. 3. 277–8 Johansen. 271 Irvine. 189. 12. Roman. 162 linguistic reflexivity. Edmund R. 189. 21. 110 Jakobson. 241 Heryanto. 183. 15. 161 Malay. 277 Meeker. Michael. 89. David. A. 243 Hindi. G. 258 Jackson. 87 Hokkien. 276.. 165. 275–280 Leavitt. 161. John. 125 Locke. 190. 38. Jeffrey. Richard S. 3. 199. 191 Jung. Harry.. Marcel. 89. 191–192 Haitian Creole. 27 Kwakiutl.. 14. 233. 274. 25. 238. 191 Hawaiian and Hawaiians. 33. 153–170 Inka. 252.. 202 Lowie. 52. 260 Heidegger. 214. Harry. 277–281 Marxism.Index Haeri. 3. 113. 26. Robert. 220–222. 155–158. 278 Japanese. 184. 255 Kroeber. 26. Kasimir. 229 Kachin. 240. 3. 100. 40. 40. 276 Linguistics.W. 219–221. 181 International Phonetic Alphabet. Catherine. 271–274 Korean. 146. 191 Hebrew. 161. 244 Jewish Mysticism. Michael. 63. 82. 3. 255 Malinowski. Immanuel. 192 – 287 – . 209. 280 Levy. 27. 2. 210. 194. Niloofar. Carl G. 53. 40. 168. Baber. 201. Judith. Julian. 164 Hunt. 27. 241. 32 Kant. 153. 155. 29. 26. 170 Malayo-Polynesian Languages. 162. 234. 39. 244 Hegel. 78–80. 277–9 Kalam. 269. 113 Lexicopragmatic and grammaticopragmatic regularities of language. 207 Interlanguage movements. 161. 89 Javanese. 40 Madurese. 155. 228. 193. 126. 92. Ariel. 80 Library of Congress Transliteration System. 162 Himmelfarb.F. 97. 3. 280 Mead. 125. 154 Iroquois. 186 Lutz. 191. 21. 182 Intersubjectivity and objectification in language. 148–9. 17. 268–283 Kiriwinian. 2. 198–200. John. 161. 64. 6. Margaret. 94. 61. 52 Kinship and Kin Terms. 210. 8. 48.. 158. 154. 5. 186 Latin. 29–31. 181. Roger. 157. 85. 184. William. 17 Halperin. 98. 61. 32 Labov. 254 Leach. 222–223. 25. 197–198. 188. 164–168. 109 Levi-Strauss. 277.

63–65.H. 281 Protestantism. 243. 116. 9. 67. Lewis Henry. 254 Russian. 161. 69. 25–27. Willard. Edward. 112 Semantic vs. 201–203 Nida. 18 Samoa. 256 Postmodernism. 228. Fred. 12. 276 Nenedakis. 269. Rodney. 169 Politics of national identity.Index Melanesian languages. 280 Morocco. R.J. 116. 2. see Lingua francas and pidgins Polanyi. 69. 37. 256 Schjeldahl. 92.. 4. 7 Schneider. 41. 281. 157. 76–79. 82–85. 217–242. 2. 277 Radin. Enid. Christopher. 158–161. 6. 157. 192 Myers. syntactic characterizations. 156. Michael. 120. 18–20. 226 Rubin. Douglas. 31. 269 Mitchaell. 250 Pidgin English. 101. 16. 271–273 Micronesia. 130 Postcolonialism. Lawrence. 55. 258. 3. 154. 26. 214. Pablo. Paul. 190 Musil. 101. 168. 13. 164. 167 Quine.R. 93 Semiotics and linguistics of nations. Richard. 83 Semiotic Transformation. Andreas. 93 Ricoeur.. 3. 93. 260 Modigliani. 96. 18 Picasso. 17. 228 Schildkrout. 32. 77 Radcliffe-Brown. 136–151 Ortega y Gasset. 27 Relativism. Ferdinand de.T. 276. 254 Schleiermacher. Jose. 49 Persian. 19–21. 17. 59 Missionaries. 269 Pawley. 32 Pepinsky. H. 8. 251. 269–271. 85. 155 Septuagint. 276 Pidgins. 17. Roy P. 199. 186 Mundy. Mary. W. 186 Mitchell. 34. 269. 183 Philology. 129. 29. 117. 7. 113. Eugene. 2. Paul. 120. Michael. 95 Saussure. Alois. 282 Robinson. Timothy. 18. 231. 122 Positivism. 192 Mitchell. 17. 31. 244 Ritual. 279–81 Semantic evaluation of mental states. 47 New Testament. Martha. 209 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. John Henry. 26. 112. 128. Andrew. 34 Politics of language choice. 68. 207 Omaha. 117. 26. 113. 13 Sapir. 149. Peter. 21. 97. 124. Moroccan Arabic. 12 Nooter. 157 Schafer. 49. 112. 258 Nuer. 5. 10. 125. 87. see Arabic Mottahedeh. 244. 15 Rosen. 199. 30. 122. 76. 252. 281 Religiously Altered States of Consciousness (RASC) and Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness (RISC). 233 Quakers. 78. 168. W. 252 National Identity and Language. 136 Ripinsky-Naxon. 277 Oral Tradition and storytelling. 9. David. 256 Rivers. 244 New World Languages. 276. 190 Phonetics.. Michel de. 271–274. 130 Nepali. 25–27. William. Amedeo. 270 Navajo. A. 216. 111. 163. 220. 250 Montaigne. 38 Orthodox or Eastern Church. 244 Renaissance. 281 Newman. 278. 199 Papua New Guinea. 2.. 252. 118. 20. 96. 4. 202. 157–175 Native Americans. 94. 252. 249 Morgan. 215 – 288 – . 20 Needham. 188 Rowland. 48 Sanskrit. Peter. 205. 219 Psychedelic Drugs. 66 Semiotic Transduction. 89 Said.. Edward. 276. 8.

164. 89. 84. Susan. 101 Translation Theory. 97 Yanamamo. 110. 153. 37. 125 Venuti. Mary. 5. 116. Zoe. 31. 230–231 Zoroastrianism. 7. Jonathan. 18. 117. 94 Wolfson. 116. 29. 115. 89. 177. 63 Strehlow. 80. 124. 228. 53. 162. 30.Index Shakespeare. Victor. 197. 9.. 37 Wehr. 4 Suharto. 76. 2. 244 – 289 – . 33. 21. 96. 20. 259 Von Humboldt. 158 Sound symbolism. 20. 165. 89. 21. 95. Carl. C. 96. 181 Standard Average European (“SAE”) Languages. 14 psychological states. 191 Smith. 89. 25. 90 Steedly. 30 Stich. 91 Spanish. 179–184. 258. 87 Transcription. Ludwig. Brian K. 91. 189 Whorf. 169 Sundanese. 6. 185 Thompson. 136. 40. 188. 96. 37 cultural conventions. 137–148 ethics in. 56 Zen meditation. 117. 210. 119. 256 Tibetans. 75 Transliteration 177–196 Trobriand Islands. 168 Sukarno. 249. 256. 39. 3. Elliot R. 46. 58. Hans. 1 Slavic influence on Greece and Greeks. 156. Colin. 258 Stendhal. 257. 148 Syntactic Functional Role Cognitive Theory. 52. 199 Smithsonian Institution. Stephen. 100 Spivak. 13. 190 Siegel. 207 Sperber. 3.. 253 Tylor. 45 Vietnamese. 38. 57. 121. 5. 257. 17 linguistic. 17. 170 Swahili. 8.. 157 Walbiri. 85. Susan. Andrew. 146 intra-lingual and inter-lingual. 13 relationships between minority and majority languages. Philip. 29. 78. 114 Steiner. 13. 79. 110. 81. 56. as. Dan. 53 Turner. Oscar. Edward. 15. Benjamin. 272–275. 183 Turkish influence on Greece/Greeks. 100 Tonkawa. 261. 27. 33. 229 Worora. 163. Lawrence. 6 rendition of intentionality. 89. 83. into. 117 intersemiotic. 1 Translation Studies. 68 Thesiger. 25 literary. 87. 279 Turkish. James. 154. 109 Wilson. 198. 2. 110. Robert. 117 Turnbull. 252 Vellacott. Robert Farris. Wilhelm. 116 Slymovics. 110 political factors. 18 ethnographic. 170 Sign language. 82–83 Southeast Asian Languages. 262 Structuralism. 243 Wittgenstein. 30 Synaesthaesia. 12. 55. 186–188. 6. 258 Shryock. 38 Strother. 161. 20 cultural. 127. 35 Vogel. 12. 36. 48. George. 4. 35. 10. 16 dialect. Wilfred. 109 Wilde. 25. 11. 250 Sociocultural contextualization of language. 56. 28. 190–193 Translation architecture as a form of. 278. 13. 181 Swift. 130 writing about culture. G. as. 142. 62. 198. 116. 86–87 Sociolinguistics.

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